Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Naomi Wheeler

Second Advisor

Dr. Kaitlin Hinchey

Third Advisor

Dr. Jennifer LoCasale-Crouch

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Kaprea Johnson


All parents experience challenges in their caregiving roles (Barańczuk & Pisula, 2020). However, parents raising a child/children with disabilities experience different social barriers (Oliver, 1996) that may also contribute to additional stressors in their caregiving role (Tomeny, 2016). Although these parents, on average, have reported greater symptoms of depression than parents of typically developing children, research shows that parents who reported receiving social support had lower symptoms of depression and stress (Das et al., 2017; Singh et al., 2017). Through the social determinants of health (SDOH) framework (ODPHP, 2022), the present study investigated informal/family-based support and its protective impact on depression reported by parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The study used existing data (N = 199) for a non-experimental, multivariate, cross-sectional design that utilized a convenience sampling approach. On average, participants self-identified as a biological parent, female, White, Non-Hispanic, college educated, and married. I used factor analyses to examine the psychometric properties of the Family Adjustment Measure family-based support subscale (FAM; Daire et al., 2014) and the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS; Zimet et al., 1988), including family, friend, and significant other support as manifest variables for informal/family-based support. I then used a structural equation model (SEM) to examine the association between informal/family-based support with depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-8; Kroenke et al., 2009) to conceptualize social determinants of health-protective factor (SDHPF) as a latent variable that predicts depression. Finally, in moderation analyses, I examined how a parent’s income and a child's symptom severity influenced the strength of the association between SDHPF and depression. Findings showed a single-factor structure, good model fit, and internal reliability for the FAM and MSPSS. Informal/family-based support significantly predicted the presence of depression in parents of children with ASD, whereas higher informal and family-based support predicted lower depression. Income and CSS did not significantly moderate the relationship between informal/family-based support and depression. Results of the present study inform implications for counselor educators, practicing counselors, policy, and research that may help enhance the lives of families that include a child with ASD.


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