Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 738–749 | Cite as

The Role of Grandparents in Supporting Families of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Family Systems Approach

  • P. PrendevilleEmail author
  • W. Kinsella
Original Paper


A family systems approach is required to identify the needs of families of children with autism. This paper explores how grandparents support children with autism and their parents using a family systems perspective. A thematic analysis of eighteen semi-structured interviews was conducted with participants from nine families, capturing experiences of both parents’ and grandparents’. Themes identified were family recalibrating; strengthening the family system; and current needs and future concerns of grandparents. The views of families indicated the overwhelming need to acknowledge the grandparental role in supporting families that strengthen the family system by supporting the needs of a child with autism. Findings revealed that grandfathers have a calming role in these families where children have significant behavioural difficulties.


Autism Grandparents Parents Grandfathers Family systems approach Family systems theory 



The authors would like to thank the families who generously took time to share their experiences. The authors acknowledge the support of Geraldine Bond and Mary Fitzgerald, both in the Brothers of Charity Cork, who assisted in the preparation of this research. This paper was completed following the submission of a Masters dissertation by the first author.

Author Contributions

PP conceived this study. She designed, coordinated, completed and analysed interviews. She also drafted the manuscript. WK supervised the design of this research. He reviewed interview analysis for consistency and assisted in the draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Author A declares that she has no conflict of interest. Author B declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee to which the authors are affiliated, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its amendments.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Enable Ireland Children’s ServicesLavanagh HouseCorkIreland
  2. 2.School of EducationUniversity College DublinDublinIreland

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