Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

David S. Mandell, ScD

Second Advisor

Jeffrey Draine, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Margaret Souders, Ph.D.


Families of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) experience significant stress relative to other families. To date, little research has examined the relationship between social support, family resilience and parental stress in families with a child diagnosed with ASD. This study explored the links between perceived social support, family resilience and parental stress in a sample of 50 primary caregivers of children between the ages of 6 and 12 diagnosed with ASD. The Social Support Index (SSI), Family Resilience Assessment Scale (FRAS), and the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form (PSI-SF) were used in this cross-sectional study. Results indicate that most families experienced clinically high levels of stress. Greater family resilience was associated with lower levels of stress. Unexpectedly, higher levels of perceived social support were associated with increased parental stress. This may suggest that families who are experiencing clinically significant levels of stress seek out community supports at higher rates than other families. It may also suggest that some social connections - such as attending religious services and parenting groups - may potentially elevate stress in parents of children with ASD. This and other possibilities are explored with implications for social work intervention. The findings of this study shed new light on the role of social support and family resilience on parental stress in families with a child diagnosed with ASD. Since the results of this study show that more resilient families report less parental stress clinicians need to focus on programming for families that enhance key processes of family resilience and reduce stress.

Included in

Social Work Commons