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Is There a Bidirectional Relationship Between Maternal Well-Being and Child Behavior Problems in Autism Spectrum Disorders? Longitudinal Analysis of a Population-Defined Sample of Young Children


  • Grant Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Grant Number: ESRC RES-000-22-3216.
  • Conflict of Interest Declaration: The authors have no direct or indirect conflict of interest related to the work presented in this paper.

Address for correspondence and reprints: Vaso Totsika, North Wales Clinical Psychology Programme, School of Psychology, Bangor University, 43 College Road, Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales LL57 2DG, UK. E-mail:


The aim of this study was to examine whether the relationship between maternal psychological well-being and behavior problems in children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is bidirectional. Data were available at 9 months, 3 years, and 5 years old for 132 children with ASD, identified from a population-representative sample of UK children. Three-wave cross-lagged models examined reciprocal effects between child behavior and maternal well-being (psychological distress, physical health functioning, and life satisfaction). Results indicated that the relationships between maternal well-being and child problem behaviors were not bidirectional. Specifically, findings suggested that while early behavior problems are not a risk factor for later maternal well-being, maternal psychological distress, physical health limitations, and lower life satisfaction are risk factors for later child behavior problems. Autism Res 2013, 6: 201–211. © 2013 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.