Publication Date

2017-06-24

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2017-06-24

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2016-06-21

First Committee Member

Michael Alessandri

Second Committee Member

Kristin Lindahl

Third Committee Member

Brian Doss

Fourth Committee Member

Anibal Gutierrez

Fifth Committee Member

Michael Cuccaro

Abstract

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has seen a sharp rise in recent years, with as many as 1 in 68 children affected by ASD. While the impact of caring for a child with ASD is individualized and varied, the lifelong and pervasive nature of the disorder may put parents at risk for negative outcomes. Previous research with this population suggests that problem behavior associated with autism is one factor that may be related to adverse outcomes among parents. The present study aimed to elucidate the individual and dyadic experiences of parents of children with ASD using the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model. Results revealed that self-reported perceptions of ASD-related problem behavior, positive affect, and negative affect were highly concordant within couples, suggesting interdependence within the family unit. Additionally, the individual or intrapersonal effects of ASD-related problem behavior were associated with parental negative affect, but not positive affect. No gender differences emerged. Exploratory analyses examining dyadic or interpersonal effects were not significantly associated with positive or negative affect. These associations did not vary as a function of child age. Lastly, exploratory analyses found that discrepancies in ASD-related problem behavior was associated with paternal negative affect, but not maternal negative affect, maternal positive affect, or paternal positive affect. This research adds to the existing literature examining functioning within families, highlighting the importance of also examining positive aspects of parent functioning. Implications for family-focused interventions are discussed.

Keywords

Autism; Parent Adjustment; Problem Behavior; Dyadic Adjustment

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