Caregiver Depression and Social Support in Families with Children with Autism
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Parents of young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) often report heightened levels of parental distress. An increasing amount of attention is being directed to parental mental health and addressing the well-being of the entire family system. In order to best serve families raising children with ASDs, the present study sought to better understand the relation between social support, various risk factors, and caregiver depression. Data were collected from 60 families with children 2—7 years with ASDs through the use of extensive, in-home interviews with primary caregivers. Mothers reported the availability and helpfulness of both formal and informal supports. Similar to previous research, mothers also reported elevated levels of depression. In the present sample, more than half of mothers reported depressive symptoms at or above the cut-off for mild depressive symptomatology. Both child-related variables (autism symptomatology, atypical behavior) and service-related variables (satisfaction with the education eligibility process, satisfaction with sources of information about ASDs) were predictive of maternal depression. Social support and maternal depression were not related.