Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Laurel Wainwright

Second Advisor

Abbey Eisenhower

Third Advisor

Alice S Carter


Maternal self-efficacy (a mother's beliefs about her parenting competence) is an important area of mothers' wellbeing and overall family functioning. This study examined environmental factors that are related maternal self-efficacy among mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD group), mothers of children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD group), and mothers of typically developing children (Typical group). Environmental factors included (a) messages of criticism or blame about one's parenting competence (parenting-related perceived stigma), (b) child problem behaviors, (c) maternal stress, and (d) social support. One hundred eighty mothers of school-age children living in the United States completed the measures on-line. Results showed that mothers from the ASD group and the ADHD group reported higher levels of parenting-related perceived stigma than mothers from the Typical group. Although mothers from the ASD group and the ADHD group reported lower levels of maternal self-efficacy compared mothers from the Typical group, this difference was no longer significant when child problem behaviors was controlled, indicating that maternal self-efficacy may be more related to children's disruptiveness level than a diagnostic category. Perceived stigma, child problem behaviors, and social support were all associated with maternal self-efficacy. Maternal stress mediated the relationship between child problem behaviors and maternal self-efficacy, and between social support and maternal self-efficacy. This study highlights the need for accessible parent-focused supports and interventions aimed at reducing child problem behaviors and maternal stress, and promoting maternal self-efficacy. Further, this research indicates that family-focused clinicians should be aware that many mothers of children with ASD and ADHD experience perceived stigma to a greater extent than mothers of typically developing children, and that clinicians can support mothers so that stigma experiences have less impact on mothers' sense of parental self-efficacy.