Award Date

5-1-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Special Education

First Committee Member

Kyle Higgins

Second Committee Member

Tom Pierce

Third Committee Member

Peggy Whitby

Fourth Committee Member

Richard Tandy

Number of Pages

251

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship among the quality of life of families that have at least one child with autism spectrum disorder, parental stress level, and partnerships between the family and professionals. Also, parent perceptions of parental stress, family quality of life, and family-professional partnerships were assessed to ascertain if they could be predicted from different variables (e.g., ethnicity, educational levels, income levels, and parental relationship status, etc.). The study examined the relationship among the three variables (e.g., family quality of life, parental stress, and family-professional partnership). Participants were recruited from an autism center located at a state university, a state autism organization, a regional autism organization, and a local autism service provider. A total of 236 parents of children with autism spectrum disorder completed the online questionnaire.

The results of the stepwise multiple regression analysis indicated that the two variables that contributed significantly to family-professional partnership were age of the first child with autism and type of school services received. The only variable that contributed significantly to parental stress was the relationship status of parent(s). The two variables that contributed significantly to family quality of life were total household income and the age of the first child with autism. However, these variables explained only a small portion of variance for the outcome variables. The results of the structural equation modeling showed that in one model the perceived parental stress level had a direct effect on the parental satisfaction concerning family quality of life. However, the family-professional partnership did not affect the direction and/or strength of the relation between parental stress and family quality of life. In the second model, family quality of life had a direct effect on parental stress. However, family professional partnership(s) did not moderate the effect of parental satisfaction concerning family quality of life on the perceived parental stress level.

These findings have implications for teacher education and collaboration between parents and educators. Coursework to enhance the understanding of the inner workings of families that include a child/youth with autism should be included in teacher education. The training should include components to form successful relationships between parents and educators as well as parent/educator collaborative teams. It is through the formation of strong family-professional partnerships that outcomes for children with autism will be improved.

Keywords

Children with autism spectrum disorders, Families, Parents, Quality of life, Stress (Psychology)

Disciplines

Family, Life Course, and Society | Special Education and Teaching

Language

English