Parents of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often experience stressors associated with caring for their child. These stressors can cause considerable distress for families, which at times can develop into full blown crisis, and it is important that professionals be able to quickly identify when families are approaching or are in crisis to respond appropriately. The current study presents an initial attempt at measuring the subjective experience of crisis in 164 caregivers of people with ASD through a single item instrument, the Brief Family Distress Scale. The BFDS was negatively correlated with helpful coping mechanisms (family hardiness, and parent empowerment), and positive adjustment (caregiver quality of life and positive parenting experiences), and positively correlated with known stressors (severity of aggressive behavior, negative life events) and problematic coping and outcomes (caregiver burden, worry, mental health problems). As expected, caregivers at Marked levels of distress (approaching or in crisis) were significantly different from caregivers at lower levels of distress in nearly all of the dependent variables. Having a quick way of measuring where families are in terms of distress and crisis can be helpful for researchers and clinicians alike.
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