Maladaptive behaviors in children with autism and parental hopelessness: The moderating role of parental reflective functioning

Yael Enav, Marguerite V. Knudtson, Antonio Y. Hardan, James J. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hopelessness in parents has implications for parents' own well-being as well as their ability to meet the needs of their children. In the present study, we examined the effect of maladaptive behaviors in children with autism on parental hopelessness, with particular attention to whether parental reflective functioning would moderate the effect of maladaptive behaviors on parental hopelessness. Our sample included 68 parents of children with autism between the ages of 3 and 18. Findings revealed a significant positive relationship between maladaptive behaviors in the children and hopelessness in the parents. Moreover, parental reflective functioning moderated the effect of child maladaptive behaviors on parental hopelessness, such that children's maladaptive behaviors were positively associated with parental hopelessness in parents with low (but not high) reflective functioning. Findings suggest parental reflective functioning may be a protective factor against parental hopelessness, and thus a possible target for interventions for hopelessness in parents whose children with autism exhibit greater maladaptive behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-112
Number of pages7
JournalAutism Research
Issue number1
Early online date5 Nov 2022
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Autism Research published by International Society for Autism Research and Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • adults
  • affect/emotion
  • children
  • clinical psychology
  • restricted/repetitive behaviors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • General Neuroscience


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