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Study by alumna: Mothers raising autistic children prone to depression, stress

by Sharita Forrest / May 6, 2014

A new study by Laurie M. Jeans, Ed.M ’08 Spec.Ed., Ph.D. ’13 Spec.Ed., indicates that mothers of children with autism experience higher rates of depression and stress than mothers of typically developing children.

The study involved a nationally representative group of 100 children born in 2001 and diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) by age 4. The children were participants in the U.S. Department of Education’s Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort, which collected data on more than 14,000 children’s development at multiple times.

When the children were 9 months old, and again when they were 4 years of age, researchers also collected data on their mothers’ well-being. At both times, the mothers of children with ASD had significantly higher incidence of depressive symptoms and stress than mothers raising typically developing children, but similar rates to those of mothers raising children with other disabilities.

More than 30 percent of the mothers raising children with ASD reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms when their children were 9 months old. That rate compared to 21 percent of mothers raising children with other disabilities and slightly more than 16 percent of mothers with typically developing children.

“The moderate and severe levels of depressive symptoms observed in mothers of children with ASD when children were 9 months and 4 years old suggest the need for supportive interventions focused on both mother and child,” said Jeans, who worked as a developmental therapist following the attainment of her master’s degree. “The presence of stress and depressive symptoms evident in mothers in this study should be addressed for the sake of the optimal development of children with ASD.”

Read the full Illinois News Bureau article…