Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 25–34 | Cite as

Coping by Redefinition: Cognitive Appraisals in Mothers of Children with Autism and Children Without Autism

  • Belgin Tunali
  • Thomas G. PowerEmail author


To test a model of how mothers cope with the stresses of raising a child with autism (Tunali & Power, 1993), mothers of children with and without autism were interviewed. As predicted, mothers of autistic children: (1) placed less emphasis on career success and were more likely to believe that mothers of young children should not work outside of the home; (2) spent more leisure time with their extended family; (3) placed less emphasis on others' opinions of their child's behavior; (4) placed more emphasis on spousal support and parental roles in their discussions of marriage; (5) had more difficulty understanding their child's behavior; and (6) showed a marginally significant difference in their tolerance of ambiguity. Moreover, mothers of children with autism who showed these characteristics had the greatest life satisfaction overall.

Autism cope cognitive appraisals stress 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bristol, M. M. (1984). Family resources and successful adaptation to autistic children. In E. Schopler & G. B. Mesibov (Eds.), The effects of autism on the family (pp. 289–310), New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  2. Carver, C. S., Pozo, C., Harris, S. D., Noriega, V., Scheier, M. F., Robinson, D. S., Ketcham, S. S., Moffat, F. L., & Clark, K. C. (1993). Hoping coping mediates the effects of optimism on distress: A study of women with early stage breast cancer. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 375–391.Google Scholar
  3. Cummings, S. T. (1976). The impact of the child's deficiency on the father. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 46, 246–255.Google Scholar
  4. Cutler, B. C., & Kozloff, M. A. (1987). Living with autism: Effects on families and family needs. In D. J. Cohen & A. M. Donnellan (Eds.), Handbook of autism and pervasive developmental disorders (pp. 513–527), New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  5. Davidson, B., & Dosser, D. A. (1982). A support system for families with developmentally disabled infants. Family Relations, 31, 295–299.Google Scholar
  6. Dyson, L. L. (1997). Fathers and mothers of school-age children with developmental disabilities: Parental stress, family functioning, and social support. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 102, 267–279.Google Scholar
  7. Farver, C. A. (1982). Achievement orientation, attainment values, and women's employment. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 20, 67–80.Google Scholar
  8. Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Folkman, S., Lazarus, R. S., Gruen, R. J., & DeLongis, A. (1986). Appraisal, coping, health status, and psychological symptoms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 571–579.Google Scholar
  10. Gill, M. J., & Harris, S. L. (1991). Hardiness and social support as predictors of psychological discomfort in mothers of children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 21, 407–416.Google Scholar
  11. Gump, J. P. (1972). Sex-role attitudes and psychological well-being. Journal of Social Issues, 28, 79–92.Google Scholar
  12. Harmon-Jones, E. (2001). The role of affect in cognitive-dissonance processes. In J. P. Forgas (Ed.), Handbook of affect and social cognition (pp. 237–255), Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  13. Holroyd, J. (1974). The questionnaire on resources and stress: An instrument to measure family response to a handicapped family member. Journal of Community Psychology, 2, 92–94.Google Scholar
  14. Howard, J. (1978). The influence of children's developmental dysfunction on marital quality and family interaction. In R. M. Lerner & G. B. Spanier (Eds.), Child influences on marital and family interaction: A life-span perspective (pp. 275–297), New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  15. Intagliata, J., & Doyle, N. (1984). Enhancing social support for parents of developmentally disabled children: Training in interpersonal problem solving skills. Mental Retardation, 22, 4–11.Google Scholar
  16. Kazak, A. E., & Marvin, R. S. (1984). Differences, difficulties, and adaptation: Stress and social networks in families with a handicapped child. Family Relations, 32, 67–77.Google Scholar
  17. Koegel, R. L., Schreibman, L., O'Neill, R. E., & Burke, J. C. (1983). The personality and family characteristics of parents of autistic children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51, 683–692.Google Scholar
  18. Krug, D. A., Arick, J. R., & Almond, P. J. (1980). Behavior checklist for identifying severely handicapped individuals with high levels of autistic behavior. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 21, 221–229.Google Scholar
  19. Lavigne, J., & Ryan, M. (1979). Psychologic adjustment of siblings of children with chronic illness. Pediatrics, 63, 616–627.Google Scholar
  20. Locke, H. J., & Wallace, K. M. (1959, August). Short marital adjustment and prediction tests: Their reliability and validity. Marriage and Family Living, 251–255.Google Scholar
  21. Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  22. McCubbin, H., Cauble, A. E., & Patterson, J. M. (1982). Family stress, coping, and social support. Springfield, IL: Thomas.Google Scholar
  23. McDonald, A. P. (1970). Revised scale for ambiguity tolerance: Reliability and validity. Psychological Reports, 26, 791–798.Google Scholar
  24. Milgram, N. A., & Atzil, M. (1988). Parenting stress in raising autistic children. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,18, 415–424.Google Scholar
  25. Rao, C. R. (1973). Linear statistical inference and its applications: (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  26. Rothbaum, F., Weisz, J. R., & Synder, S. S. (1982). Changing the world and changing the self: A two-process model of perceived control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 5–37.Google Scholar
  27. Rutter, M., & Garmezy, N. (1983). Developmental psychopathology. In P. H. Mussen (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology. (Vol. IV, pp. 775–911), New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  28. Rydell, S. T., & Rosen, E. (1966). Measurement and some correlates of need-cognition. Psychological Reports, 19, 139–165.Google Scholar
  29. Sabbeth, B., & Leventhal, J. (1984). Marital adjustment to chronic childhood illness. Pediatrics, 73, 762–768.Google Scholar
  30. Taylor, S. E. (1983). Adjustment to threatening events: A theory of cognitive adaptation. American Psychologist, 38, 1161–1173.Google Scholar
  31. Terry, D. J., & Hynes, G. J. (1998). Adjustment to a low-control situation: Reexamining the role of coping resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1078–1092.Google Scholar
  32. Tunali, B., & Power, T. G. (1993). Creating satisfaction: A psychological perspective on stress and coping in families of handicapped children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 34, 945–957.Google Scholar
  33. Wilton, K., & Renaut, J. (1986). Stress levels in families with intellectually handicapped preschool children and families with nonhandicapped preschool children. Journal of Mental Deficiency Research, 30, 163–169.Google Scholar
  34. Zung, W. W. K. (1965). A self-rating depression scale. Archives of General Psychiatry, 12, 63–70.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HoustonTexas
  2. 2.Washington State UniversityPullman

Personalised recommendations