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Stress and Mental Health in Parents of Autistic and Gender Diverse Adolescents

October 5, 2023 - May 20, 2024

Recent recognition of the co-occurrence of autism and gender diversity has led researchers to investigate the unique experiences and mental health of individuals at this intersection. Past research has indicated that autistic, gender diverse individuals experience poorer mental health compared to those who are either a gender minority, autistic, or those who belong to neither of these groups. Given the correlation between parent and child health, and recent reports from parents regarding increased support needs at this intersection, it is important to address the health and unique needs of parents among this population. This cross-sectional, survey-based study aims to investigate parent-reported stress and mental health of parents whose adolescents are autistic and gender diverse, in comparison to those who belong to only one of these minority groups (gender diverse or autistic) or neither group. Additionally, the study will examine how parental perceived social support, as well as parent-reported autism characteristics and quality of life in their children, may be associated with parental stress and mental health in parents of autistic, gender diverse adolescents. The findings from this study will improve understanding of the mental health and stress of parents whose adolescents are autistic and/or gender diverse, along with what factors are associated with their well-being. These findings have the potential to inform future work testing supports addressing the needs of this sub-population.

What are the goals of the study?

The goal is to address gaps in the literature related to parents of autistic, gender diverse adolescents. I hope to learn about parental stress and mental health in groups that have not previously been thoroughly explored (parents of gender diverse adolescents and parents of autistic, gender diverse adolescents). I hope to identify factors associated with mental health and stress among these parents that can inform future research and practices.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will fill out an online eligibility survey (aprox. 5 min long). If eligible, they will receive an email with a link to the online study survey. This is a 30-45 min survey in which participants answer questions related to themself and their adolescent. Upon completion of the survey, they will be emailed a $15 Amazon gift card.

How will this help families?

This project will contribute to our understanding of parent mental health and possible risk/protective factors among parents of adolescents in general and among specific at-risk populations. Understanding parent mental health and stress among families in these understudied subgroups can help drive future research around supports for families of gender diverse autistic youth, with the potential to improve quality of life of both parents and autistic adolescents.

Eligibility Criteria

Participants in this study will include parents of adolescents who are either autistic, gender diverse, both autistic and gender diverse, or non-autistic and cisgender. The inclusion criteria include that the individual:

(1) is a primary caregiver of an individual between the ages of 11-18 and

(2) has at least one child who meets criteria for one of the target samples (see below).

Inclusion criteria for subsamples include having at least one child who is either autistic (i.e. parent reported community diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, Asperger’s disorder, autism, autistic disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified – as these all fall under the umbrella diagnosis of autism in the latest DSM), gender diverse (i.e. parent reports youth identifies as gender diverse), both autistic and gender diverse (i.e. meeting both criteria), or non-autistic and cisgender (i.e. child has not received a community diagnosis as listed above and child does not identify as gender diverse based on parent report).

Participants must be fluent in English, as all survey measures are in English.

Take the eligibility survey

View the study flyer

Contact Information

Kris Nelson – nelso119@csusm.edu

Research Study Website
SPARCC Lab at California State University, San Marcos

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