Psychological Adjustment in Families Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Katherine Whitehead
  • Diana Dorstyn
  • Lynn WardEmail author


There is extensive evidence that parents and carers of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are vulnerable to experiencing mental health issues including having high risk of depression, anxiety and familial stress. Research also suggests that this stress can coexist with positive experiences of caregiving. However, the capacity to remain resilient, or thrive during difficult emotional experiences, is a relatively new concept in the ASD literature. The present study adds to current understanding of the mental health needs of female caregivers by evaluating data from a nationwide survey (N = 438). The findings suggest that psychological outcome is primarily determined by individual coping responses, with avoidant strategies (disengagement, self-blame, denial, emotional venting) contributing to depressed mood in addition to anxiety and stress symptomatology. In comparison, action-oriented strategies (planning, acceptance, positive reframing) characterised resilience. Perceived support needs and, to a lesser extent, child behaviour, also had important contextual influences. Future longitudinal research will help to refine the variables implicated in the adjustment process, including changes in caregivers’ repertoire of cognitive and behavioural coping responses over time.


Autism Coping Psychological adjustment Distress Resilience 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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