Research has demonstrated an association between parenting stress and child behavior problems, and suggested levels of parenting stress are higher among parents of children at risk for behavior problems, such as those with autism and developmental delay (ASD/DD). The goal of the present study was to conduct a systematic review of parenting stress and child behavior problems among different clinical groups (i.e., ASD/DD, chronic illness, with or at-risk for behavioral and/or mood disorders). We also examined demographic and methodological variables as moderators and differences in overall levels of parenting stress between the clinical groups. This systematic review documents a link between parenting stress and child behavior problems with an emphasis on externalizing behavior. One-hundred thirty-three studies were included for quantitative analysis. Parenting stress was more strongly related to child externalizing (weighted ES r = 0.57, d = 1.39) than internalizing (weighted ES r = 0.37, d = 0.79) problems. Moderation analyses indicated that the association between parenting stress and behavior problems was stronger among studies which had mostly male and clinic-recruited samples. Overall, parenting stress levels were higher for parents of children with ASD/DD compared to parents of children from other clinical groups. Findings document the association between parenting stress and child behavior problems and highlight the importance of assessing parenting stress as part of routine care and throughout behavioral intervention programs, especially for groups of children at high risk for behavior problems, such as children with ASD/DD, in order to identify support for both the parent(s) and child.
Keywords: Autism; Behavior problems; Chronic illness; Developmental delay; Parenting stress.