Title: Couple Conflict in Parents of Children with vs. without Autism: Strengths and Vulnerabilities
Legend: Graphs depict the mean self-reported severity of parent couple conflicts (top left), mean percentage of parent couple conflicts resolved (bottom left), and mean level of coded couple behaviors from an observed couple conflict interaction (right) for couples who had a child with autism (blue) and couples who had children without neurodevelopmental conditions (orange).
Citation: Hartley SL, Papp LM, Mihaila I, Bussanich PM, Goetz G, Hickey EJ. (2017). Couple Conflict in Parents of Children with versus without Autism: Self-Reported and Observed Findings. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26, 2152-2165.
Abstract: We compared the couple conflict of parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to a comparison group of parents of children without disabilities using self-reported and observational measures. In total, 178 couples who had a child with ASD (aged 5-12 years) and 174 couples who had children without disabilities (aged 5-12 years), recruited from a Midwestern state in the United States, reported on couple conflict in everyday life and engaged in an observed couple conflict interaction. Parents of children with ASD reported more frequent, severe, and unresolved couple problems than the comparison group. Parents who had a child with ASD were observed to have less engaged, balanced, and cooperative couple conflict interactions, but demonstrated more positive affect and sensitivity towards one another, than parents in the comparison group. Group differences had small effect sizes. Findings have implications for marital therapies and relationship education programs.
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.