Acceptance or Despair? Maternal Adjustment to Having a Child Diagnosed with Autism

J Autism Dev Disord. 2018 Jun;48(6):1971-1981. doi: 10.1007/s10803-017-3450-4.


Psychological adjustment to having one's child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder has important implications for a parent's mental health. In a longitudinal study, we examined the association between maternal adjustment to the diagnosis and measures of distress and well-being in 90 mothers of children with autism (baseline and 18 months). We used a novel 30-item scale "Adjustment to the Diagnosis of Autism." Factor analysis identified three dimensions of adjustment: acceptance, self-blame, and despair. Acceptance appeared to be a protective response, as it was associated with lower depressive symptoms, cross-sectionally and over time. Conversely, caregivers with increasing levels of self-blame and despair about the diagnosis over 18 months had worsening of mental health and satisfaction with life during this period.

Keywords: Adaptive adjustment; Autism spectrum disorders; Caregivers; Depression; Stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Behavior* / physiology
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Emotional Adjustment* / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations / psychology
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires