Having a child with autism may have a strong impact on the family, especially on mothers, who are usually the primary caregivers of children with autism. Parents of children with autism report more mental health problems compared to parents of children with typical development or other developmental disabilities. Parental copying strategies may play a significant role when parents have to overcome stressful situations during the child development. The present study aimed to investigate the coping strategies used by mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and their relation to maternal stress and depression. One hundred and forty-three (143) mothers (mean age 42.7 years) of children with ASD (6-17years), who attended the ASD Outpatient Clinic of the Department of Child Psychiatry, at a Children’s Hospital, participated in the current study. Mothers completed a series of questionnaires: a demographic characteristics questionnaire, the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), the Family Crisis Oriented Personal Scales (F-COPES), and the Parenting Stress Index Short-Form (PSI-SF). Mothers with higher educational level scored significantly lower in total F-COPES and its subscale “reframing”. Increased daily hours related to child care and the child's medication were additional factors significantly associated with lower scores on “reframing”. Reframing subscale was also negatively correlated with “parental distress”, whereas “passive appraisal” was positively correlated with depressive symptoms. Lower scores on “mobilizing family to acquire” and “accept help” were associated with family life being more seriously affected. Coping strategies of mothers of children with ASD are associated with a number of factors related to personal characteristics of caregivers, child treatment and family characteristics. Mental health professionals should examine factors that may strengthen coping strategies that handle the challenges of having a child with ASD.

KEYWORDS: Autism spectrum disorders, coping strategies, depression, parental stress.

Vassiliki Ntre, Κaterina Papanikolaou, Eirini Amanaki, Kalliopi Triantafyllou, Chara Tzavara, Gerasimos Kolaitis


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