Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 48, Issue 10, pp 3296–3310 | Cite as

Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Their Parents in the Transition into Higher Education: Impact on Dynamics in the Parent–Child Relationship

  • Valérie Van Hees
  • Herbert Roeyers
  • Jan De Mol
Original Paper


This study examined how 34 senior students and first-year college students with autism spectrum disorder, their mothers (n = 34) and fathers (n = 26) navigate the higher education transition, and how this context impacts on dynamics in the parent–child relationships. Semi-structured interviews were analyzed based on grounded theory and dyadic analysis principles. Both parties were confronted with an abundance of challenges and experienced strong feelings of ambivalence, stress and anxiety. Differences in perspectives occurred regarding the construction of adulthood, the acquisition of autonomy, disclosure and subscribing to support services. These differences caused tensions in the parent–child relationship, hindering the transformation of the relationship into an adult-like mutual relationship. Clinical implications are extrapolated on the basis of these findings.


ASD Higher education transition Qualitative research Challenges Support needs Parent–child relationship Interpersonal influences 


Author Contributions

VVH, HR, and JDM developed the study concept and established the study design. VVH collected the data and ran the analyses with guidance from HR and JDM. All authors interpreted the data. VVH performed literature review and prepared the draft with guidance from HR and JDM. All authors contributed intellectually critical revisions of the manuscript. All authors reviewed the final manuscript and gave approval for publication.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10803_2018_3593_MOESM1_ESM.docx (53 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 53 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valérie Van Hees
    • 1
    • 2
  • Herbert Roeyers
    • 1
  • Jan De Mol
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Experimental Clinical and Health PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Psychological Sciences Research InstituteUniversité catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium

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