Theses and Dissertations

Finding Benefit and Feeling Strain in Parenting a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Kimberly R. Zlomke


Female caregivers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, often report higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression which are often related to increased levels of caregiver strain, as well as the frequency and severity of child problem behaviors (CPB). Despite negative aspects of caring for a child with ASD, caregivers have also found benefit. The current study extended the caregiver benefit finding (CBF) and caregiver strain literature by exploring the role that these variables play in the mental health of female caregivers of children with ASD (n = 259), by assessing caregiver strain as a mediator between CPB and caregiver distress, examining CBF as a moderator between caregiver strain and distress, and assessing a moderated mediation of CPB, caregiver strain, caregiver distress, and CBF. Results suggest that caregiver strain is a significant mediator between CPB and caregiver distress, however CBF was not found to be a moderator, and thus the moderated mediation was not supported. CBF was a significant predictor for caregiver distress. Findings inform theoretical applications within the ASD sample and provide implications for future research in the development of interventions to enhance functioning in female caregivers.

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