Thesis

Advocacy, social support, service use, and stress among parents of children with autism

Previous literature has shown that parents of children with autism experience more stress compared to parents of children without autism, but little is known about factors that reduce such stress. Based on Baker-Erikzen et al. (2005) explanations of stress, the present study investigated associations between parental stress, advocacy skills, self-efficacy, social support, and service utilization in a sample of 38 mothers and 8 fathers who had a child with autism (Mean Age = 7.17, SD = 3.7). First, social support and selfefficacy were hypothesized to additively explain levels of stress. Additionally, service utilization was hypothesized to mediate the relationship between advocacy skills and stress. Results indicated that more parental stress was associated with fewer advocacy skills, less social support, lower self-efficacy, and lower service utilization. Unexpectedly, service utilization did not mediate the effect between advocacy skill and stress, and social support did not significantly add to a reduction of stress after self- efficacy was explained. In a hierarchical linear regression self-efficacy, advocacy, and service use each uniquely predicted parental stress. Implications illustrated additional support focusing on developing advocacy skills and accessing social support is needed.

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