Single Mothers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): The Relationship among ASD Severity, Social Support, and Maternal Depression

Research has found that depression and anxiety are present in 26.7% and 33.7% of parents with ASD children, respectively (Machado Junior, Celestino, Serra, Caron, Ponde, 2014). Social support has also been identified as a critical factor that reduces the negative psychological effects of raising a child with ASD (Bishop et al., 2007; Bromley et al., 2004).

Therefore this study explored the relationship between depression and social supports for single mothers who are caregivers of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Using a cross-sectional research design, we recruited a sample of 42 mothers with low (n = 22) and high (n = 21) ASD-symptom children from three CLSCs in Montreal, Quebec.

The study surveyed respondents using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 to assess the mother’s level of depression and the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List-Short Form to assess the level of social supports. As hypothesized, our findings showed that mothers of children with low autism reported lower depression scores than mothers of children with high autism who reported moderate to moderately-severe depression. Mothers of children with low autism had significantly higher social support scores than mothers of children with high autism. A moderate negative correlation between depression and social supports was found for mothers of low autism children.

Due to the study’s limitations, the results are not generalizable to the larger population; however, findings suggest the importance of social support during difficult times with this population of mothers.


Machado Junior, S. B., Celestino, M. I. O., Serra, J. P. C., Caron, J., & Pondé, M. P. (2014). Risk and protective factors for symptoms of anxiety and depression in parents of children with autism spectrum disorder. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, (0), 1-8.


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