University of Wisconsin–Madison

Sigan Hartley, PhD

Sigan Hartley Slide of the Week

Title: Family Context and Parenting Experiences in Autism

Legend: Family context (having multiple children with special needs [Fig 1], household income [Fig 2], and parent level of broader autism phenotype [BAP; Fig 3] moderated spillover of a challenging parenting day on next-day couple experiences in parents of children with autism across a 14-day daily diary.

Citation: Hartley SL, Papp LM, Blumenstock SM, Floyd F, Goetz GL. (2016). The effect of daily challenges in children with autism on parents’ couple problem-solving interactions. Journal of Family Psychology, 30(6):732-42. doi: 10.1037/fam0000219.

Abstract: The vulnerability-stress-adaptation model guided this examination of the impact of daily fluctuations in the symptoms and co-occurring behavior problems of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) on parents’ couple problem-solving interactions in natural settings and as these interactions spontaneously occur. A 14-day daily diary was completed by mothers and fathers in 176 families who had a child with ASD. On each day of the diary, parents separately reported on the child with ASD’s daily level of symptoms and co-occurring behavior problems and the topic and level of negative affect in their most meaningful or important daily couple problem-solving interaction. Multilevel modeling was used to account for the within-person, within-couple nested structure of the data. Results indicated that many parents are resilient to experiencing a day with a high level of child ASD symptoms and co-occurring behavior problems and do not report more negative couple problem-solving interactions. However, household income, level of parental broader autism phenotype, and presence of multiple children with special care needs served as vulnerability factors in that they were related to a higher overall rating of negative affect in couple interactions and moderated the impact of reporting a day with a high level of child ASD symptoms and co-occurring behavior problems on next-day ratings of negative couple problem-solving interactions. The magnitude of these effects was small. Understanding mechanisms that support adaptive couple interactions in parents of children with ASD is critical for promoting best outcomes.

About the Investigator: Sigan Hartley, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department. Her research examines the individual resources and family contexts underlying positive well-being in individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

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