Parental Stress, Coping Strategies and Family Functioning of the Children with Autism

Author: Dr. Afsheen Masood

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Hamid Sheikh

Degree: Ph.D

Year: 2012

University: Institute of Applied 0chology, Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan


Family functioning in relationship to autism is scarcely studied. Thus the current research is psychological study, designed with specific objective of exploring and assessing the magnitude of the impact stress and coping strategies as normally adopted by parents of children with autism on the overall family functioning. The demographic variables and their relationships with parental stress, type of coping strategy used by the parents and its impact on family functioning was also reviewed. The analytic approach in this research study involved a two step process. First step involved using those instruments to test the hypotheses about relationships among the variable in the structural model. It was hypothesized that stress dimensions including parental distress, difficult child and parent child-dysfunctional interaction relate to coping strategies and reduced family adaptability and cohesion in parents of children with autism and with normal development. It was hypothesized that the more positive coping strategies implemented by a family would predict greater satisfaction with their family functioning. It was also expected that mothers would rate their families as more cohesive and adaptable. It further hypothesized that there would be significant differences in family adaptability and cohesion in two groups of parents. Parents of children with autism and parents of children with normal development (n = 100+100) were matched on relevant demographic variables. After fulfilling all ethical considerations, the data was collected from special education institutes of Lahore city. A series of correlational analyses revealed positive association of problem focused coping with better family adaptability and cohesion and negative association with parental distress and symptom severity of the diagnosed child. A set of hierarchical regression analyses, conducted and revealed that emotion focused coping indicated higher parental distress and dysfunctional parent child interaction. The symptom severity predicted increased parental distress and more unbalanced family patterns like chaotic, rigid and enmeshed family patterns. The hypothetical relationship of the study variables was used to build a schematic model that was verified in the light of the direction of association between predictors and outcome variables. The verified and confirmed paths of the study variables showing direction of relationships that were presented in the empirically confirmed model. The findings revealed substantial implications for clinicians, mental health professionals and researchers.

Keywords: Parental stress, coping strategies, family functioning, children, autism.

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Corresponding Address: Department of Applied 0chology, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan. Email:, Phone: 92-42-9231245

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