Background: A large number of studies have examined psychological distress and emotion regulation (ER) in parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, no study has previously examined “purely” cognitive ER strategies in parents of children with ASD compared to parents of children with other disabilities.
Method: The Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (CERQ) along with anxiety and depression sub-scales of the Personality Inventory for DSM-5 (PID-5) were administered online to three groups of mothers (N = 90) of children with either ASD or intellectual disability (ID) as well as mothers of typically developed (TD) children.
Results: Mothers of children with ASD experienced higher levels of anxiety and depression and reported less use of positive reappraisal, positive refocusing, and refocus on planning than mothers of TD children. In addition, mothers of children with ASD had a higher level of anxiety (but not depression) and a lower use of positive reappraisal than mothers of children with ID. Other CERQ strategies (self-blame, rumination, putting into perspective, catastrophizing, and other-blame) were used equally by all mothers. In addition, the patterns of correlations between cognitive ER strategies and anxiety and depression are generally consistent across the three groups of mothers; but anxiety and depression positively correlated with other-blame only in mothers of children with ASD.
Conclusions: Cognitive ER strategies correlated with anxiety and depression in mothers of children with ASD. Accordingly, effective intervention for psychological distress in families of children with ASD should aim to incorporate these strategies.