Studying parenting stress in mothers of young children with autism spectrum disorder is the focus of a new study at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School.

“Although there is rising interest in parental stress associated with caring for children with autism, very few studies have examined parenting stress in this population across cultures,” said Dr. Noriko Porter, postdoctoral researcher in McGovern Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Co-investigator for the study is Dr. Katherine Loveland,  professor of psychiatry and director of the C.L.A.S.S. (Changing Lives through Autism Spectrum Services) Clinic.

The study will compare the stress between mothers in Japan and mothers in the United States in order to learn more about how culture affects families with children who have been diagnosed with autism, a developmental brain disorder.

“Both are industrialized countries with very different value orientations. Japanese society’s orientation toward collectivism and conformity might lead to attitudes toward disabilities that are different from those in the United States, which values individualism and diversity,” Porter said. “There is a distinct contrast in parental practice between the two countries, such as promotion of closeness in Japan versus autonomy in the U.S. Differences in parenting norms and beliefs influence the way that mothers view behavior exhibited by their child with autism, which might explain the variance in their stress.”

Porter said they believe the study could help professionals and the public understand parenting stress as it is experienced in diverse cultures. The information could provide a basis for the development of interventions specifically designed to address culture-related risks in families of children with autism.

In the study, mothers of children with an autistic child ages 2 to 5 will be interviewed and asked to complete forms about their children and their experience in parenting autistic children. Enrollment will end in June 2014.

For more information, contact Porter at or

-Deborah Mann Lake, Office of Public Affairs, Media Relations