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Art Class
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 2022 and will shift focus to disseminating these interventions to the community and may need participant feedback!

Summary of Findings

Learn more about our project findings below.

Little Boy with Crayons

Parenting stress significantly reduced in both intervention groups. Reductions in stress were greater in the MBSR group

Family Using a Tablet

Mindfulness and psychoeducation interventions are effective in reducing parental distress in parents of children with ASD

Father Playing with Daughters
No differences in changes in parenting stress as a function of whether parents participated in the interventions in-person or online​

STEPS Colloquium 2023 Recording

STEPS Publications and Presentations

Peer-Reviewed Publications:

Fenning, R.M., Neece, C. L., Sanner, C., & Morrell, H.E. (2023). Efficacy and Implementation of Stress‑Reduction Interventions for Underserved Families of Autistic Preschoolers Across In‑Person and Virtual Modalities. Mindfulness. 1-17. 

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

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.

Iwamoto, B. K., Neece, C. L., Nair, A., Rockwood, N. J., Fenning, R. M., Krantz, M. L., & Van Dyk, T. R. (2022). Exploring the Bidirectional Relationships between Child Sleep, Child Behavior, and Parenting Stress in Families of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Alostaz, J., Baker, J. K., Fenning, R. M., Neece, C. L., & Zeedyk, S. (2022). Parental coping as a buffer between child factors and emotion-related parenting in families of children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Family Psychology, 36(1), 153.

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.

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