Parenting children with autism challenges couples’ relationships. Their relationships are strained by many factors including different views on treatment, feelings of guilt, struggles to get appropriate services and less couple time. New research shows that seeking emotional support, spouses supporting each other and benefit finding—the ability to find the good during a bad situation- are key factors for couples’ happiness when parenting children with autism.
“We see, in our direct contact with the families of children with ASD, that many are coping well, siblings are adjusting, and marriages are thriving,” said Michael Alessandri, executive director of the UM Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. “We want to highlight the reasons why those families do well,” he said. “After all, it is the positive outcomes that will truly inform our clinical work and help shape more impactful treatments for families.”
Researchers from the University of Miami studied 67 couples parenting children with autism. The couples answered questionnaires about the effect of different traits on their relationships. The questionnaire asked about the effects of optimism, benefit finding, coping strategies and social support on their relationship satisfaction.
Although optimism is important for individual satisfaction, it was not as important for relationship satisfaction. The survey indicates that support from spouses, emotional support and the ability to see good in a bad situation were the three important traits for strong relationships among parents of children with autism. The study also found:
- An individual’s own strength predicted his or her increased levels of relationship satisfaction.
- Fathers and mothers did not differ in reported partner support, optimism or relationship satisfaction.
- Mothers reported higher use of social and instrumental support coping than fathers.
- Mothers reported greater levels of benefit finding compared to fathers.
- More perceived partner support was highly related to partner satisfaction for mothers than fathers.
- Greater satisfaction of one partner was related to greater satisfaction of the other.
“The findings imply that there are factors that could potentially enhance family functioning, marital quality and parenting, and that strengthening these qualities should be the target of family-focused interventions,” Alessandri said.
“The Power of Positivity: Predictors of Relationship Satisfaction for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder” is published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
SOURCE: University of Miami