Date of Award

Summer 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Kathrin Hartman (Eastern Virginia Medical School)

Committee Member

Scott Debb (Norfolk State University)

Committee Member

Serina Neumann (Eastern Virginia Medical School)

Committee Member

James Paulson

Committee Member

Maria Urbano (Eastern Virginia Medical School)


Though the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder continues to rise, limited research to date has studied the impact of culture on stress and coping for families after they are diagnosed. This study explored the relationship between caregiver’s ethnic culture and caregiver reports of stress and coping behaviors when caring for a child with autism. Specifically, this study used discriminate function analysis to contrast the stress and coping profiles of Caucasian caregivers to African American caregivers that are more acculturated with the majority culture and African American caregivers that ascribe to more traditional values. A sample of 103 participants was recruited, 52 Caucasian families and 51 African American families. Findings from this research suggest that experiences of caring for a child with autism are different across cultural groups and within the African American cultural group. African American families reported experiencing significantly more stress and utilizing more ways of coping than their Caucasian counterparts. Additional differences were found between the high and low acculturated African American groups such that low acculturated African Americans were more likely to engage in religious coping.

A secondary goal of this study was to consider caregiver stress and coping through the lifespan of the child. There were no significant differences found between the coping and stress profiles of caregivers of children in early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence.


The VIRGINIA CONSORTIUM PROGRAM IN CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY is a joint program of Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, and Old Dominion University.


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