Background: Studies have found that marital satisfaction and parenting stress are important risk factors for negative child outcomes. However, parenting stress and broader family factors like the marital relationship are rarely addressed in interventions targeting childhood problems. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) appears to be the stress-based intervention that has the most empirical support with over 50 studies demonstrating its effectiveness; however, to date no peer-reviewed article has been published examining whether this intervention can help reduce parenting stress (Chiesa, & Serretti, 2009; Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004). Similarly, research has shown that marital satisfaction significantly impacts parental stress and parent-child relationships, yet research has not examined how this relationship plays out in an intervention aimed at reducing parenting stress and child behavior problems. Method: Parents of children ages 2.5 to 5 with developmental delays or autism spectrum disorders (n=46) participated in an 8 week mindfulness-based stress reduction program and reported their initial level of marital satisfaction and levels of parenting stress and child behavior problems before and after treatment to determine if marital satisfaction significantly moderated parents’ reported reductions in parenting stress and child behavior problems. Results: Marital quality significantly moderated changes in child behavior problems throughout the study. Parents with lower marital satisfaction reported higher levels of child behavior problems at the beginning of the study and showed significant reductions in child behavior problems at the completion of the study. In contrast, parents with high levels of marital satisfaction at the beginning of the study reported significantly fewer child behavior problems, and therefore the reduction of child behavior problems was much smaller. Marital satisfaction did not significantly moderate changes in parenting stress over the course of the study, which may be due to small sample size of lack of a moderating relationship because of the high levels of parenting stress with parents of children with developmental delays. Conclusion: When examining child behavior problems and outcomes, parental marital satisfaction and adjustment are an important variable to consider, especially in the context of children with developmental disabilities. Marital quality significantly moderated changes in child behavior problems over the course of the MBSR program, indicating that parental martial adjustment and satisfaction should be a key target for intervention.

LLU Discipline





School of Behavioral Health

First Advisor

Neece, Cameron L.

Second Advisor

Vermeersch, David A.

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Child Behavior Disorders; Developmental Disabilities; Stress - Psychological; Mindfulness; Parenting - Psychology

Subject - Local

Marital Satisfaction; Parenting Stress; Negative Child Outcomes; Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction; Autism; Development Delays


Doctoral Project

Page Count


Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives

Included in

Psychology Commons