We used data from the 2011 Survey of Pathways to Diagnosis and Services (N = 1,420) to evaluate a conceptual model linking social background (race-ethnicity, socioeconomic status [SES]) to parental distress through children’s clinical profiles and parental beliefs about the nature and causes of their child’s autism. Children’s clinical profiles varied by social background; white children and children of more highly educated and affluent parents were less likely to experience comorbid conditions and were more likely to be diagnosed with Asperger’s. Parental beliefs also varied such that parents of racial-ethnic minority children and parents of lower SES perceived their child’s condition as more uncertain and were less likely to attribute it to genetic causes. Parents of Hispanic children and with lower incomes were more likely to be upset by the child’s condition. Although parental beliefs had independent associations with distress, children’s clinical profiles contributed more to explaining variation in distress.