Mindfulness: A Factor in Consideration of Parent Stress and Theory of Mind Among Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder

Logan P Hegg, Pace University


Parents of children with special needs, including those with problems of relating and communicating such as in autism spectrum disorder, are at risk for significantly higher levels of stress than parents of neurotypical children. This study investigated the relationship between a particular way of attending to experience, known as mindfulness, and dimensions of parent stress and children's theory of mind. Parents completed self-report measures of parenting stress and mindfulness, and a widely accepted screening tool for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) regarding their child. Children completed a performance-based battery of theory of mind tasks. Using published, psychometrically-defined cut scores, group differences analyses were conducted, with particular attention given to likelihood (p value) and magnitude (Cohen's d) of differences between parents endorsing or not endorsing clinically elevated levels of stress, and having children rated as having or not having a high probability of ASD diagnosis, among different facets of mindfulness. Additionally, single-predictor linear regression models were examined to explore relationships between parenting stress, degree of the child's impairment in functioning, and the parent's level of mindfulness. Within regression models, analysis of individual participant influence yielded information on the coherence of each model, providing idiographic information as to what demographic effects may affect covariation between constructs. Certain factors related to mindful living correspond with greater stress tolerance or resilience in parents of children with autisim, including having a non-reactive and non-judgmental response style. Further, theory of mind development in children was positively related to all mindfulness factors. These data suggest that a larger investigation of mindfulness and their relation to parenting stress is indicated. If a more robust investigation yields results consistent with this pilot study, and mindfulness practices or behaviors are demonstrated to be beneficial for parents with children on the autism spectrum, then a suitable evidence base exists for development of a supportive parenting intervention for parents of ASD children.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Hegg, Logan P, "Mindfulness: A Factor in Consideration of Parent Stress and Theory of Mind Among Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder" (2013). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3572137.



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