Mothers of children with autism experience more stress than mothers of kids with other types of developmental delay, according to a study published in the July issue of the journal Autism.

Researchers at the University of Washington surveyed mothers of 73 children — 51 with autism and 22 with developmental delay — to assess levels of parenting stress and psychological distress. Aside from stress, researchers asked about a child’s behavior, adaptive functioning level and level of daily living skills like feeding and bathing.

The findings indicate that mothers of children with autism have higher levels of parenting stress — or stress related directly to the role of parenting — and psychological distress, or general stress unrelated to parenting.

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Problem behavior correlated with a higher stress level among both groups of mothers, but was particularly acute for mothers of children with autism. A child’s level of daily living skills did not appear to impact a mother’s stress level.

“Both groups of women are dealing with children who need high levels of caregiving. But there is something about autism that is making a difference and adding stress,” said Annette Estes, of the University of Washington who is the lead author of the study.

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