Stress and self-compassion in parents of children with autism spectrum disorders.
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Lee, Crystal I.
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This past decade, the prevalence of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has increased from 0.6%-0.7% to 0.9%, meaning more families are experiencing the stress of having a child with an ASD. Researchers found that levels of parenting stress are consistently considerably higher in parents of children with an ASD compared to parents of healthy children and parents of children with other disabilities or health problems. This stress has several negative effects, such as poor parenting behavior. Given that research has shown that parents’ beliefs about themselves affect how they experience stress as well as their overall psychological well-being, addressing how parents relate to themselves may be beneficial. This study explored the relationship between stress and self-compassion in parents of children with ASDs as a first step to finding a potential intervention for parental stress. It was found that levels of stress were higher in parents of children with diabetes and parents of neurotypical children without a chronic illness than in parents of children with ASDS. Levels of self-compassion in parents of children with ASDs were lower than in parents of children with diabetes but comparable to levels of self-compassion in parents of neurotypical children without a chronic illness. Differences in stress and self-compassion were found to have a small to medium effect size. A small, positive relationship was found between stress and self-compassion. Additionally, guilt was not found to be a mediator of the relationship between stress and self-compassion.