Date of Completion


Embargo Period



James Green, Ph.D., Kimberli Treadwell, Ph.D.

Field of Study



Master of Arts

Open Access

Campus Access


Parenting stress level has been one of the most widely studied topics related to the effect on a family of raising a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The influence of child characteristics such as adaptive functioning level and symptom severity on levels of parenting stress have been well-studied, but little is known about the influence of family socio-demographic factors such as socio-economic status and education level. In the current study, 50 parents of toddlers who went on to be diagnosed with ASD through a broader study of Early Detection of ASD provided demographic information and reported on their level of parenting stress using the Parenting Stress Index- Short Form (PSI- Abidin, 1995). Most parents reported on the PSI prior to their child receiving the diagnosis of ASD and prior to accessing intervention services. Family yearly income was found to have a significant negative correlation with parenting stress, indicating that parents with lower incomes reported higher levels of parenting-related stress. In regression analysis, yearly income was found to contribute to the variance in parenting stress independently of the influence of child symptom severity. In this sample of parents of toddlers newly-diagnosed with ASD socio-economic status as measured by yearly income only made a significant contribution to level of parenting stress. Additionally, Yearly Income was found to be a moderator of the relation between symptom severity and parenting stress, with low income parents of children with high levels of symptom severity reporting the highest levels of parenting stress. This indicates that low-income parents may be at elevated risk for increased stress when caring for a toddler with ASD and may benefit from support and intervention as they begin to access intervention services for their child.

Major Advisor

Marianne L. Barton, Ph.D.