Depression in Fathers and Mothers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Elena Mickevičienė
Liuda Šinkariova
Aidas Perminas
Published 2009-01-01


autistic child

How to Cite

Mickevičienė E., Šinkariova L. and Perminas A. (2009) “Depression in Fathers and Mothers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder”, Psichologija, 390, pp. 19-30. doi: 10.15388/Psichol.2009.0.2597.


Parenting a child with autism spectrum disorder is stressful for many reasons: difficulty with diagnosis, lack of information about autism and its treatment, deficit of social support, etc. It is impossible to review all the problems experienced by parents, so our study focused on depression in both parents of an autistic child.
The purpose of this work was to compare depression in fathers and mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder and to compare our findings with results of the control group, i.e. parents of a normally developing child. Depression in our study indicates the intensity of the preclinical state of mind, manifested by sadness, pessimism and a decrease of activity. 120 persons participated in the study, 72 (60%) of them being mothers and 48 (40%) fathers of autistic children raging from 3 to 18 years of age. Control group consisted of 69 mothers (57.5%) and 51 fathers (42.5%) of normally developing children of the same age, selected in accordance with the gender and age of autistic children as well as the gender and age of their parents. The age of the participants ranged from 25 to 60 years (mean 39, SD 6.55). For evaluation of depression, we employed Cung’s depression scale. Additional questions on social-demographic factors were also included: age, education and employment status of participants; family composition; age and gender of child with diagnosed autism and occupation. The results showed that depression in mothers and fathers with autistic children did not differ. Both parents of an autistic child had a higher depression than both parents of normally developing children (p = 0,001). The age and education of parents with autistic children did not correlate with depression. The age of the autistic child correlated with depression of both parents differently: when an autistic child was 3–7 years old, depression in fathers and mothers did not differ; when an autistic child was 8–11 years old, depression in fathers was higher than in mothers; during adolescence of an autistic child, the difference of depression persisted, but its direction was opposite, mothers showing a higher depression than fathers. There are several limitations to this study. We should note that the sample does not represent the population of families with autistic children. Also, Cung’s depression scale might not be the best scale to evaluate depression in these families. Another limitation is that we did not consider all circumstances, such as marital status, the gender of children, occupation of parents and children, individual characteristics, social support, and the degree of severity of autism. The findings of this study require further research. However, the results indicate that parents of an autistic child need special understanding and support.


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