Approximately 50% of Mothers of Children with Autism Exhibit Signs of Depression

November 07, 2022

However, a Mother’s Depressive Symptoms Did Not Lead to Behavioral Issues in Their Kids

A new study published in the journal Family Process has discovered that about half of mothers of children with autism experience high depressive symptoms. This study included 86 mothers and their children, ages 2-16. Half of the mothers involved in this research had children on the spectrum. All mothers were repeatedly assessed over 18 months using the Inventory of Depressive Symptoms, a self-reported scale. Each mother also reported on their child’s behavior using the Child’s Challenging Behavior Scale, which measures tantrums, aggression, and defiance. While 50% of mothers of children with autism had elevated levels of depressive symptoms, only 6% to 13.6% of mothers of typical children experienced symptoms of depression. One of the study’s most striking findings showed that while a child’s behavioral problems did serve as a predictor for mothers experiencing depression, depressive symptoms in a mother did not lead to behavior issues in children. Interestingly, this observation did not depend on whether or not a child had a diagnosis of autism. Lead author, Danielle Roubinov expands on this research stating, “The finding that maternal depression does not lead to worsened child symptoms is especially important for mothers of children with ASD to help alleviate guilt many mothers feel about their children’s diagnosis and behavior problems. We hope these findings will reassure mothers that it’s both common to struggle with some depression in this high-stress situation of chronic caregiving and that their depression likely isn’t making their child’s behavioral issues worse.” 

Original Study

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