Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)

Department

Clinical Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Beverly J. Wilson, PhD

Second Advisor/Committee Member

John Thoburn, PhD

Third Advisor/Committee Member

M. Jamila Reid, PhD

Abstract

Research indicates that parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience more total stress and more stress within specific domains of the parent-child relationship. Specific externalizing behaviors such as hyperactivity have been related to elevated adverse parent-child outcomes in families with typically developing children. To date, the relation of child hyperactivity to parenting stress has not been examined in children with ASD. This study investigated the extent to which child hyperactivity differs between children who are typically developing (TD) and children with ASD. In addition, this study also examined the relation of child hyperactivity to parenting stress. Participants included 39 typically developing children and 25 children with ASD (68.8% male; 74.3% Caucasian) between the ages of three years and six years eleven months (M age = 56.44 months, SD = 13.64 months). Parent and teacher reports were used to evaluate children’s hyperactivity and parent reports were used to determine parenting stress levels. Parents of children with ASD had significantly greater reported overall stress, ΔR2 = .22, B = .58, p = .000, in addition to greater stress on each subscale separately: parent distress, ΔR2 = .18, B = .51, p = .000; parent-child dysfunctional interaction, ΔR2 = .19, B = .53, p = .000; and difficult child, ΔR2 = .22, B = .57, p = .000. Children with ASD also had significantly greater teacher reported hyperactivity, ΔR2 = .05, B = .28, p = .041 and parent reported hyperactivity, ΔR2 = .24, B = .60, p = .000. Parent reported hyperactivity significantly predicted total parenting, stress, ΔR2 = .14, B = .53, p = .000, and each subscale separately: parent distress, ΔR2 = .07, B = .37 p = .018; parent-child dysfunctional interaction, ΔR2 = .13, B = .52, p = .000; and difficult child, ΔR2 = .22, B = .67, p = .000. Hyperactivity did not significantly moderate the relation between diagnostic status and parenting stress for either teacher or parent report. However, it was found that increased hyperactivity within both the TD and ASD groups was associated with significant increases in total parenting stress, difficulties within the parent-child interaction and difficulties associated with the child. Post-hoc analysis revealed that parent reported hyperactivity mediated the relation between diagnostic status and parenting stress, providing further insight into the mechanisms by which diagnostic status may convey vulnerability for parenting stress. Collectively, these findings suggest hyperactivity is a vulnerability factor for children and parents across diagnosis and represents a valuable point of intervention.

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