Stress levels and adaptability in parents of toddlers with and without autism spectrum disorders

Mary J. Baker-Ericzén, Lauren Brookman-Frazee, Aubyn Stahmer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

240 Scopus citations


The toddler years can be a particularly stressful time for all parents, however, parents of children with disabilities may experience additional sources of stress. Recent literature on early education for children with disabilities promotes inclusion with typical peers with increases in the availability of inclusive programs. However, little is known about early intervention inclusion programs and parental factors such as stress and adaptability. The current study expands the research for children with disabilities by investigating the associations of having a voting child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) on multiple dimensions of parental stress for mothers and fathers and how participation in an inclusive toddler program may be related to these stress levels. Results for this community sample are consistent with previous research indicating that that both mothers and fathers of children with ASD report significantly elevated levels of both child and parent related stress in comparison with parents of typically developing toddlers. Following their child's participation in the inclusion program, mothers of children with ASD report significant reductions in child-related stress but no reductions in the parent-related stress domain. No changes were seen with either child or parent domain for fathers. Lastly, a child's level of social skills was a significant predictor of child-related maternal stress for children with autism. This pattern was not seen in fathers of these children. Implications for early intervention program modifications, such as increasing family support and incorporating adjunctive parent interventions for parents with elevated levels of stress are discussed. copyright 2005 by TASH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-204
Number of pages11
JournalResearch and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Autism
  • Community program
  • Inclusion
  • Parental stress
  • Toddlers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health Professions(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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