Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Alice S. Carter

Second Advisor

Abbey Eisenhower

Third Advisor

Timothy Soto


Raising a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can present unique parenting challenges, as children with ASD have difficulty engaging in reciprocal social interactions and communicating their needs and wishes. The ways in which parents navigate these challenges through parenting and broader family adaptations have been shown to impact developmental outcomes for their children with ASD. Thus, parents and children can have transactional or reciprocal influences on each other’s behaviors and general functioning over time. Understanding the strength and directionality of the associations between parent and child behaviors is particularly important among families of children with ASD because these parents report experiencing high levels of negative impacts including adverse financial, social, and emotional experiences. Additionally, little work has addressed parents’ experiences of positive impacts, or the perceptions and experiences that enrich parents’ lives as a result of raising a child with a developmental disability. The current study examined the nature of associations between child functioning and parent negative and positive impact across early childhood in families of children with ASD. The role of social support was examined as a moderator in both relations across three time points. As a secondary data analysis, this project drew upon data from a three-wave longitudinal study of patterns of development among children recently diagnosed with ASD between 18- to 33-months of age. Participants from the larger study were included in the current project if parents responded to a measure of parent negative and positive impact at any study time point. Longitudinal latent variable cross-lagged panel analyses were used to create models for the associations between child functioning and parent negative and positive impact; multi-group models were used to explore the role of social support as a moderator. The results indicated that the associations between Child Functioning and Negative Impact are initially bidirectional and move to being parent-driven as children enter preschool-age. No associations were identified between Child Functioning and Positive Impact, or for the role of social support as a moderator in any of the models. Findings elucidate additional points of intervention to ameliorate parent negative impacts and capitalize on positive impacts. Documenting parent-child associations in early childhood may also lend evidence for strengthening parents’ and children’s resources and capacities at an early age when these pathways may be more malleable.


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