This study examines the relation of parental perceptions and observed parent-child interactive behaviors. Samples observed included normally developing children, children with autism, and children with mental retardation who were equivalent on mental age. Parental perceptions of children's temperament and parental feelings of parenting stress were examined. Results indicated that parental perceptions of autistic children's behavior were more often linked to actual child and parental behaviors than in the comparison samples. Parents who reported their autistic children as more difficult in temperamental style had children who were less engaged during a social game with the parent and less responsive in interaction with an experimenter. Parents who reported greater stress had autistic children who were less responsive in social interactions with others.