Single mothers of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are likely to experience high levels of stress and be at risk for depression. However, respite care can reduce parenting stress and lower psychological distress in parents of children with disabilities. This study focused on single mothers of children with ASD and their reports of stress relative to respite care received. One hundred and twenty-two single mothers completed the Respite Care Instrument, Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, Hassles and Uplifts Scale, and Caregiver Burden Instrument. Results were mixed. Respite care was positively related to daily uplifts, but not significantly related to depression or stress. Uplifts mediated the relationship between respite care and depression, but stress did not mediate the relationship between respite care and depression, indicating uplifts were a process through which respite care had an indirect effect on depression. More than half (59.8%; n = 73) of mothers accessed respite care, most (41.0%; n = 30) being provided by a combination of sources: grandparents, extended family member, babysitter, community agency, or other. Seventy-seven percent of mothers (n = 94) were at risk for clinical depression. Findings provide evidence that single mothers of children with ASD are likely to experience depressive symptoms, access multiple sources of respite care, and be less likely to report depressive symptoms when they (a) receive respite care, and (b) report high amounts of daily uplifts. Therefore, it is important respite care be accessible and provided to single mothers of children with ASD. Recommendations for policy makers, school personnel, and research are offered.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





autism, caregivers, depression, mothers, one-parent family, single mothers, respite care



Included in

Psychology Commons