Physical activity and stress levels among parents of children with autism
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Parents of children with autism may experience high levels of stress due to the nature of raising a child with autism. This stress can impact the quality of life and health among this group. These parents are in need of programs (e.g., respite, wellness, fitness) to help improve their overall well-being and quality of life. Regular participation in physical activity may be one of many strategies used by these parents to effectively manage stress levels. The objective of this study was to determine if a relationship existed between physical activity and stress levels among parents of children with autism. Parents of children with autism (N = 183) completed an online survey that included the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form (PSI-SF) (Abidin, 1995) and questions regarding their physical activity levels. Results showed that parents of children with autism had unusually high levels of stress. A weak inverse relationship was found between the parents current participation in exercise (r = -.16) and non-exercise physical activity (r = -.24). While these relationships are statistically significant (p < .05), the correlation is not great enough to be of any practical significance as indicated by their coefficients of determination. The establishment of causality will require experimentation in future research. Future studies regarding the impact of physical activity, health, and wellness on stress may help these parents find strategies to effectively manage their high stress levels.
Parents of autistic children