Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Ivy Chong

Second Advisor

Richard T. Elmore

Third Advisor

Heidi Hatfield Edwards

Fourth Advisor

Mary Beth Kenkel


While the impact of psycho-social variables has been evaluated for children with chronic illness and related disabilities, questions remain unanswered for families affected by ASD. Participants included 68 primary caregivers seeking services for a child aged fifteen months to 12 years suspected of or diagnosed with an ASD. Assessment tools included: 1. Parenting Stress Index-Fourth Edition-Short-Form (PSI-4-SF; Abidin, 2012), 2. Parenting Sense of Competence Scale (PSOC; Johnston and Mash, 1989), and 3. Relationship Assessment Scale (Hendrick, 1988). Independent samples t-tests were conducted to determine differences with a nonclinical control population (60 participants with a typically-developed child) regarding perceptions of stress, competence and relationship satisfaction. ASD caregivers reported experiencing significantly higher stress than Control caregivers (p=.000). A hierarchical multiple regression analysis was used to assess whether perceived competence and relationship satisfaction variables were predictors of overall stress in the clinical sample. Results indicate that these variables significantly impact parenting stress (p <.001). Implications for parent involvement in treatment and child outcomes are discussed.