Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Tammy Barry

Advisor Department



It is known that externalizing behavior problems among children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are related to parental stress among parents. This study examined how cognitive functioning levels of children with ASD may moderate this relation in a group of 27 children (ages 7 to 16 years) with a diagnosis of ASD. Children were tested on a brief measure of intelligence to estimate their cognitive functioning. Parents completed measures of the children’s ASD symptom severity and externalizing behaviors as well as a measure of their own levels of parental stress. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that ASD symptoms and cognitive functioning significantly predicted parental stress, with both ASD symptoms and cognitive functioning emerging as significant unique predictors. However, externalizing behaviors did not contribute significant unique variance in parental stress above and beyond these other child variables. Furthermore, IQ did not moderate the relation between externalizing behaviors and parental stress. These findings underscore the importance of considering ASD symptom severity and cognitive functioning as potential markers of risk for stress among parents with a child with ASD.


Honors College Award: Excellence in Research