Cognitive control and cognitive flexibility predict severity of depressive symptoms in parents of toddlers with autism spectrum disorder

Saeid Sadeghi, Hamid Reza Pouretemad, Serge Brand


Having a toddler with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be challenging for parents and may negatively impact on parents’ mental health. This study examined the relationship between parental depressive symptoms and their cognitive control and cognitive flexibility, and toddlers’ ASD symptoms. A total of 68 parents with toddlers with ASD participated in this crosssectional study. Parents completed a series of questionnaires covering the toddlers’ symptoms of ASD (Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS-2), and their symptoms of depression (Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II)) and their cognitive control and cognitive flexibility (Cognitive Control and Flexibility Questionnaire (CCFQ)). Pearson correlation coefficient and linear regression were used to analyze the data. Toddlers’ greater severity of ASD symptoms (r = 0.33; p < 05), parents’ a lower ability of cognitive control (r = -0.62; p < 01) and cognitive flexibility (r = -0.33; p < 05) were associated with parents’ greater severity of depressive symptoms. Toddlers’ severity of ASD (11%) and parents’ cognitive control (39%) and cognitive flexibility (11%) explained significant changes of the variance of parents’ depressive symptoms. Parents’ cognitive control, but less so toddlers’ severity of ASD, predicted the severity of their depressive symptoms. Interventions to improve cognitive control among parents of toddlers with ASD might favorably impact on parents’ symptoms of depression.