Original Paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 43, Issue 11, pp 2604-2616

First online:

Respite Care, Marital Quality, and Stress in Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Amber HarperAffiliated withGiant Steps, Wasatch Mental Health
  • , Tina Taylor DychesAffiliated withDepartment of Counseling Psychology and Special Education, Brigham Young University Email author 
  • , James HarperAffiliated withSchool of Family Life, Brigham Young University
  • , Susanne Olsen RoperAffiliated withSchool of Family Life, Brigham Young University
  • , Mikle SouthAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology and Neuroscience Center, Brigham Young University

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Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are at risk for having higher stress and lower marital quality than other parents. Survey data regarding respite care, marital quality, and daily hassles and uplifts were obtained from 101 mother-father dyads who were together raising at least one child with ASD (total # of children = 118). Number of hours of respite care was positively related to improved marital quality for both husbands and wives, such that a 1-h increase in weekly respite care was associated with a one-half standard deviation increase in marital quality. This relationship was significantly mediated by perceived daily stresses and uplifts in both husbands and wives. More respite care was associated with increased uplifts and reduced stress; increased uplifts were associated with improved marital quality; and more stress was associated with reduced marital quality. The number of children in the family was associated with greater stress, and reduced relational quality and daily uplifts. Results suggest policymakers and practitioners should develop supports for providing respite for families raising children with ASD.


Autism spectrum disorders Marital quality Respite Social support Stress Mothers and fathers