Skip to main content

Daily Couple Experiences and Parent Affect in Families of Children with Versus Without Autism

Abstract

We examined daily couple experiences in 174 couples who had a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) relative to 179 couples who had a child without disabilities and their same-day association with parent affect. Parents completed a 14-day daily diary in which they reported time with partner, partner support, partner closeness, and positive and negative couple interactions and level of positive and negative affect. One-way multivariate analyses of covariance and dyadic multilevel models were conducted. Parents of children with ASD reported less time with partner, lower partner closeness, and fewer positive couple interactions than the comparison group. Daily couple experiences were more strongly associated with parent affect in the ASD than comparison group. Findings have implications for programs and supports.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th edn.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  2. Barrett, L. F., Robin, L., Pietromonaco, P. R., & Eyssell, K. M. (1998). Are women the "more emo- tional" sex? Evidence from emotional experiences in social context. Cognition & Emotion, 12, 555–578.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Benson, P. R., & Kersh, J. (2011). Marital quality and psychological adjustment among mothers of children with ASD: Cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(12), 1675–1685.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Bolger, N., & Laurenceau, J. (2013). Intensive longitudinal methods: An introduction to diary and experience sampling research. New York, NY, USA: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Bolger, N., Davis, A., & Rafaeli, E. (2003). Diary methods: Capturing life as it is lived. Annual Review of Psychology, 54(1), 579–616.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Bristol, M. M. (1984). Family resources and successful adaptation to autistic children. In The effects of autism on the family (pp. 289–310). US: Springer.

  7. Brobst, J. B., Clopton, J. R., & Hendrick, S. S. (2009). Parenting children with autism spectrum disorders: The couple’s relationship. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 24, 38–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Caputo, J., & Simon, R. W. (2013). Physical limitation and emotional well-being gender and marital status variations. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 54(2), 241–257.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. Constantino, J. N., & Gruber, C. P. (2012). Social Responsiveness Scale, Second Edition (SRS-2). Torrance, CA: Western Psychological Services.

    Google Scholar 

  10. DeGrace, B. W. (2004). The everyday occupation of families with children with autism. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 58(5), 543–550.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Doig, J., McLennan, J., & Urichuk, L. (2009). “Jumping through hoops”: Parents’ experiences with seeking respite care for children with special needs. Child Care, Health and Development, 35, 234–242. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2214.2008.00922.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Dyer, J. W., McBride, B. A., Santos, R. M., & Jeans, L. M. (2009). A longitudinal examination of father involvement with children with developmental delays: Does timing of diagnosis matter. Journal of Early Intervention, 31, 265–281. doi:10.1177/0192513X09340386.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Ekas, N. V., Lickenbrock, D. M., & Whitman, T. L. (2010). Optimism, social support, and well-being in mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40(10), 1274–1284.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Estes, A., Munson, J., Dawson, G., Koehler, E., Zhou, X. H., & Abbott, R. (2009). Parenting stress and psychological functioning among mothers of preschool children with autism and developmental delay. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, 13, 375–387.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Funk, J. L., & Rogge, R. D. (2007). Testing the ruler with item response theory: Increasing precision of measurement for relationship satisfaction with the Couples Satisfaction Index. Journal of Family Psychology, 21, 572–583.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Gau, S. S., Chou, M., Chiang, H., Lee, J., Wong, C., Chou, W., & Wu, Y. (2012). Parental adjustment, marital relationship, and family function in families of children with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6, 263–270.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Gottman, J. M., Coan, J., Carrere, S., & Swanson, C. (1998). Predicting marital happiness and stability from newlywed interactions. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 5–22.

  18. Harper, J. M., Schaalje, B. G., & Sandberg, J. G. (2000). Daily hassles, intimacy, and marital quality in later life marriages. American Journal of Family Therapy, 28(1), 1–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Hartley, S. L., Barker, E. T., Seltzer, M. M., Floyd, F., Greenberg, J., Orsmond, G., & Bolt, D. (2010). The relative risk and timing of divorce in families of children with an autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Family Psychology, 24, 449–457.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  20. Hartley, S. L., Mihaila, I., Otalora-Fadner, H. S., & Bussanich, P. M. (2014). Division of labor in families of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Family Relations, 63(5), 627–638.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  21. Hayes, S. A., & Watson, S. L. (2013). The impact of parenting stress: A meta-analysis of studies comparing the experience of parenting stress in parents of children with and without autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43, 629–642.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. Higgins, D. J., Bailey, S. R., & Pearce, J. C. (2005). Factors associated with functioning style and coping strategies of families with a child with an autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 9(2), 125–137.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. Hoffman, C. D., Sweeney, D. P., Hodge, D., Lopez-Wagner, M. C., & Looney, L. (2009). Parenting stress and closeness: Mothers of typically developing children and children with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 24, 178–187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Jenkins, J., Simpson, A., Dunn, J., Rasbash, J., & O’Connor, T. G. (2005). Mutual influence of marital conflict and children’s behavior problems: Shared and nonshared family risks. Child Development, 76, 24–39.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Johnson, M. D., Cohan, C. L., Davila, J., Lawrence, E., Rogge, R. D., Karney, B. K., … Bradbury, T. N. (2005). Problem-solving skills and affective expressions as predictors of change in marital satisfaction. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 15–27.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Kayfitz, A. D., Gragg, M. N., & Robert Orr, R. (2010). Positive experiences of mothers and fathers of children with autism. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 23, 337–343.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Kirk, R. E. (1996). Practical significance: A concept whose time has come. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 56(5), 746–759.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Laurenceau, J. P., Barrett, L. F., & Pietromonaco, P. R. (1998). Intimacy as an interpersonal process: The importance of self-disclosure, partner disclosure, and perceived partner responsiveness in interpersonal exchanges. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(5), 1238.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Lee, G. K. (2009). Parents of children with high functioning autism: How well do they cope and adjust? Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 21, 93–114. doi:10.1007/s10882-008-9128-2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Lord, C., Risi, S., Lambrecht, L., Cook, E. J., Leventhal, B. L., DiLavore, P. C., Pickles, A., & Rutter, M. (2000). The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule—Generic: A standard measure of social and communication deficits associated with the spectrum of autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30, 205–223.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Park, J. H., Kim, Y.-S., Koh, Y.-J., Song, J., & Leventhal, B. L. (2014). A contrast of comorbid condition and adaptive function between children with autism spectrum disorder from clinical and non-clinical populations. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 8, 1471–1481.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Proulx, C. M., Helms, H. M., & Buehler, C. (2007). Marital quality and personal well-being: A meta-analysis. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69(3), 576–593.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Quittner, A. L., Espelage, D. L., Opipari, L. C., Carter, B. D., & Eigen, H. (1998). Role strain in couples with and without a child with a chronic illness: Associations with marital satisfaction, intimacy, and daily mood. Journal of Health Psychology, 17, 112–124.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Raudenbush, S. W., Bryk, A. S., Cheong, A. S., Fai, Y. F., Congdon, R. T., & du Toit, M. (2011). HLM 7: Hierarchical linear and nonlinear modeling. Lincolnwood, IL: Scientific Software International.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Santamaria, F., Cuzzocrea, F., Gugliandolo, M. C., & Larcan, R. (2012). Marital satisfaction and attribution style in parents of children with autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome and non-disabled children. Life Span and Disability, 15, 19–37.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Simons, R. L., Lorenz, F. O., Wu, C., & Conger, R. D. (1993). Marital and spouse support as mediator and moderator of the impact of economic strain upon parenting. Developmental Psychology, 29, 368–381.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Smith, L. E., Hong, J., Seltzer, M. M., Greenberg, J. S., Almeida, D. M., & Bishop, S. L. (2010). Daily experiences among mothers of adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40, 167–178.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  38. Timmons, L., Willis, K. D., Pruitt, M. M., & Ekas, N. V. (2016). Predictors of daily relationship quality in mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 1–14.

  39. Warfield, M. E. (2005). Family and work predictors of parenting role stress among two-earner families of children with disabilities. Infant and Child Development, 14, 155–176.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Watson, D., & Clark, L. A. (1997). Measurement and mismeasurement of mood: Recurrent and emergent issues. Journal of Personality Assessment, 68(2), 267–296.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: the PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1063.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Weitlauf, A. S., Vehorn, A. C., Taylor, J. L., & Warren, Z. E. (2014). Relationship satisfaction, parenting stress, and depression in mothers of children with autism. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, 18, 194–198.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Wymbs, B. T., & Pelham, W. E. (2010). Child effects on communication between parents of youth with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 119, 366–375. doi:10.1037/a0019034.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH009190 to S. Hartley) and Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (P30 HD03352 to A. Messing).

Author contributions

All authors contributed sufficiently to the scientific work. SLH concieved of the study and prepared the manuscript, LSD contributed to analyses and writing, and HMS assisted in conducting the study and also contributed to writing.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sigan L. Hartley.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

Authors Hartley, Smith, and Schultz declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures in studies involving human participants were in accordance with ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

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

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hartley, S.L., DaWalt, L.S. & Schultz, H.M. Daily Couple Experiences and Parent Affect in Families of Children with Versus Without Autism. J Autism Dev Disord 47, 1645–1658 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3088-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Autism
  • Parent
  • Couple
  • Marital
  • Daily Diary