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Stress-Reduction Techniques for Enhancing Parenting Skills Project


Research suggests that parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often experience heightened parenting stress, compared to parents of typically developing children. High levels of parenting stress may affect families over time and decrease the effectiveness of interventions. This project tested the effectiveness of these programs in decreasing parenting stress and in turn, affecting child-behavior problems. 

What is STEPS?

The STEPS Project was developed in collaboration with researchers at California State University, Fullerton and compared two interventions aimed at increasing parental well-being in order to ultimately improve child behavioral outcomes. The two intervention groups were a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, group and a parent education group which had the same duration (8 weeks) but differed in content. The MBSR group taught parents mindfulness exercises shown to help with stress reduction. The parent support and education group gave parents information on raising a young child with ASD. Parents were randomly placed into either group. We were interested in seeing how either program affected both immediate and long-term parenting stress and child behavioral outcomes among these families. 

What's next?

STEPS Project wrapped up Spring 2023 and will shift focus to disseminating these interventions to the community.

STEPS Colloquium 2023 Recording

STEPS Publications and Presentations

Peer-Reviewed Publications:

Baker, J.K., Fenning, R.M., Preston, A.E. et al. Parental Distress and Parenting Behavior in Families of Preschool Children with and Without ASD: Spillover and Buffering. J Autism Dev Disord (2023).

Neece, C. L., Fenning, R. M., Morrell, H. E., & Benjamin, L. R. (2023). Comparative effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction and psychoeducational support on parenting stress in families of autistic preschoolers. Autism, 13623613231191558.

Chan, N., Fenning, R.M., Neece, C.L. (2022). Prevalence and Phenomenology of Anxiety in Preschool-Aged Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, 1-13.

Neece, C.L., McIntyre, L.L, & Fenning, R.M. (2020). Examining the Impact of COVID-19 in Ethnically Diverse Families with Young Children with Developmental Delays. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research. 64(10), 739-749.

Conference Presentations:

Iwamoto, B., Krantz, M. L., Neece, C., Nair, A., Fenning, R., Van Dyk, T.R. (August, 2021). Exploring the bidirectional relationships between child sleep, child behavior, and parenting stress in families of children with ASD. Poster presented at the 2022 American Psychological Association Annual Convention.

Vejar, M., Lee, S., Chan, N.,Neece, C.L., Fenning, R. (2022). Parenting Behavior, Effortful Control, and Child Compliance in Children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder, 2022 APA Poster Submission.


Krantz, M., Chan, N., Feghali, P., Sanner, C., Neece, C., & Van Dyk, T. (2021, April). Understanding sleep difficulties among children with autism spectrum disorder from underserved populations: Practical considerations for clinicians. Poster presented at the 2021 Society of Pediatric Psychology Annual Virtual Conference.

Preston, A. E., Baker, J., Fenning, R., McGregor, H., Sanner, C., Chan, N., Neece, C.L. (2021). Parental distress and parenting quality in families of children with ASD: Evidence for potential compartmentalization. Poster presented at the 20th Annual International Society for Autism Research Conference, Boston, MA. 

Krantz, M. L., Sanner, C., Preston, A., Fenning, R., & Neece, C. (2021). Predictors of Parent Empowerment in Diverse Families of Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Symposium presented at the 2021 American Psychological Association Annual Convention. ​

​Krantz, M. L., Hartley, S., Fenning, R., & Neece, C. (2021, April). Spillover of Parenting Stress and Marital Interactions Among Parents of Children with ASD. Symposium presented in the Graduate Student Symposium at the 54th Annual Gatlinburg Virtual Conference.

Chan, N., Vejar, M., Callaci, C., Rodriguez, M., & Neece, C. L. (2020, May). Examining the prevalence and symptom profile of anxiety disorders in three to five year old children with and without autism spectrum disorder. Symposium submitted to the 53rd Annual Gatlinburg Conference on Research and theory in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, San Diego, CA.

Chan, N., Callaci, C., Rodriguez, M., Fenning, R. M. & Neece, C. L. (2020, May). Risk correlates of anxiety disorders in three to five year old children with and without autism spectrum disorder. Poster accepted to International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA.

Vejar, M., Sanner, C., Chan, N., Krantz, M., Neece, C.L. (2020). The Relationship between Positive Parenting and Child Emotion Regulation in Children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder, 2020 APA Conference Poster Presentation.

Krantz, M. L., Sanner, C., Preston, A.E., Neece, C.L. (2019, April). Parenting stress in at-risk families: Mechanisms for family functioning. Symposium presented at the 2019 Society for Research in Child Development Biennial Meeting, Baltimore, MD.

Krantz, M. L., Preston, A., Sanner, C., & Neece, C. (accepted). Negative marital interactions and child behavior problems predict parenting stress among parents of children with autism. Symposium accepted for the 53rd Annual Gatlinburg Conference, San Diego, CA. (Conference cancelled due to COVID-19). 



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