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Parental depression symptoms and internalizing mental health problems in autistic children

A new article by a School of Human Ecology research team, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, examines associations between parental depression symptoms and the internalizing problems of autistic youth.

Lead author is Brianna Piro-Gambetti, PhD student in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS), and co-authors are Jennifer Putney, PhD student in HDFS, and Associate Professor Sigan Hartley, PhD, 100 Women Distinguished Chair in Human Ecology.

Autistic youth are at risk for internalizing mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Similarly, parents of autistic youth report higher levels of depression than parents of typically developing children.

The study sought to understand the bidirectional associations between the depression symptoms of parents and the internalizing mental health problems of autistic youth, as these outcomes may be linked in both genetic and environmental ways.

The research revealed that parental depression symptoms predicted youth’s internalizing problems 12 months later, while youth’s internalizing problems predicted material depression symptoms.