From child autistic symptoms to parental affective symptoms: A family process model

Ka Shing Kevin CHAN, Chun Bun Ian LAM, Chung Wa LAW, Ryan Yat Ming CHEUNG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Depression and anxiety are prevalent among parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but limited research has investigated why parenting a child with ASD is associated with elevated distress and increased risks of mental health problems. We responded to this gap in the literature by examining the associations between child autistic symptoms and parental affective symptoms, as well as the potential underlying mechanisms. Guided by a family process theory, we hypothesized that child autistic symptoms would be positively associated with parental depressive and anxiety symptoms, and that these associations would be mediated by parents' concerns about their children's characteristics (future-related worry), parental roles (parenting stress), marital relationships (marital conflicts), and family conditions (family economic pressure).
Methods: Cross-sectional questionnaire data were collected from 375 parents of children with ASD residing in Hong Kong, China. The hypotheses were tested using structural equation modeling.
Results: Child autistic symptoms were positively associated with parental depressive and anxiety symptoms. These associations were mediated by future-related worry, parenting stress, marital conflicts, and family economic pressure.
Conclusions: Our findings revealed the potential pathways through which child autism symptomatology may adversely affect parental mental health. Our findings also highlighted the importance of designing multipronged intervention programs for families raising children with ASD in order to improve relevant family processes and reduce parental affective symptoms. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-31
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Early online dateFeb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018



Chan, K. K. S., Lam, C. B., Law, N. C. W., & Cheung, R. Y. M. (2018). From child autistic symptoms to parental affective symptoms: A family process model. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 75, 22-31. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2018.02.005


  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Future-related worry
  • Parenting stress
  • Marital conflicts
  • Family economic pressure