Fortschr Neurol Psychiatr
DOI: 10.1055/a-1743-2770

Parental Stress of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder During the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19): Experience from Serbia

Elterlicher Stress bei Kindern mit Autismus-Spektrum-Störung während der Corona-Pandemie (COVID-19): Erfahrungen aus Serbien
Aleksandra Djuric-Zdravkovic
1   University of Belgrade Faculty for Special Education and Rehabilitation, Beograd, Serbia
Mirjana Japundza-Milisavljevic
1   University of Belgrade Faculty for Special Education and Rehabilitation, Beograd, Serbia
Dijana Perovic
2   Institute of Human Genetics, University of Belgrade Faculty of Medicine, Beograd, Serbia
› Author Affiliations


Objective Taking care of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as of children with other developmental disorders, is associated with greater parental stress. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and impact of integrative and co-morbid ASD-related symptoms on parental stress levels during the COVID-19 pandemic at four time points. Testing was performed during significant changes related to the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Serbia.

Methods The research sample included 67 parents of children with ASD 4 to 7 years and 6 months of age. The Autism Parenting Stress Index, Gilliam Autism Rating Scale - Third Edition, diagnostic criteria for ASD from DSM-5 and Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence - Fourth Edition were used to assess the tested abilities.

Results Core behavior (problems of social development and communication skills) as well as co-morbid behaviors related to ASD (tantrums, aggressive behavior, self-injurious behavior and difficulties with transitions) caused the highest degree of parental stress. Post hoc tests that used Bonferroni correction found that parental stress caused by basic and co-morbid behaviors gradually decreased from first to fourth measurement, respectively. Sleep and toilet training problems, as well as co-morbid physical problems, caused the greatest degree of parental stress during the first measurement. Measuring total parental stress caused by integrative and co-morbid symptoms related to ASD showed that it was at the highest level during the first measurement, decreased during the second measurement and remained unchanged during the third and fourth measurements.

Conclusion Time, as a repeating factor, during the COVID-19 pandemic has an effect on lowering the levels of parental stress caused by all examined ASD-related domains. These results may be useful in creating individual programs to support parents of children with ASD during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Publication History

Received: 21 March 2021

Accepted: 11 January 2022

Article published online:
06 April 2022

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