, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 83-92
Date: 07 May 2008

Family Functioning and Coping Behaviors in Parents of Children with Autism

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Abstract

We analyzed family dynamics and coping behaviors of parents with a child with an autistic spectrum disorder. Previous research suggests that moderate levels of cohesion and adaptability are associated with higher levels of positive coping, and that the more coping strategies a family implements, the greater their satisfaction with family functioning. Using a family systems approach, the relationships among the familial variables of cohesion, adaptability, and social support were evaluated for their contributions to coping in the family unit. We also compared the responses of mothers and fathers. Surprisingly, for these parents of children with autism, those who rated their family as enmeshed implemented more positive coping strategies than did those from other cohesion styles. This finding suggests that the enmeshed style may be more adaptive for a family that encounters extreme challenges. Notably, mothers and fathers agreed on all variables except for perception of social support from family and friends. Mothers perceived more social support from family and friends. The results lead to several interesting suggestions for future research.