Dyadic coping, relationship satisfaction, and parenting stress among parents of children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: The role of the couple relationship


The prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has seen a sharp rise, with 1 in 110 people receiving a diagnosis compared to 1 in 2,000 before the 1980s. The challenges associated with a child’s ASD diagnosis place emotional and financial strains on parents. Extant literature has identified how the stress of caring for a child with ASD affects parents on an individual and couple relational level. Yet, little is known about how these couples cope with this stress, and what impact that coping has on their couple relationships and levels of parenting stress—questions that are more clinically relevant. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between dyadic coping (i.e., coping that draws upon the couple relationship to manage the stress involved with caring for a child with ASD), relationship satisfaction, and parenting stress. Data from 38 married couples was utilized to conduct both quantitative and qualitative analysis aimed at examining these relationships. Results showed that dyadic coping was positively related to relationship satisfaction and negatively related to parenting stress. Relationship satisfaction was also negatively associated with parenting stress. The majority of the relationships between dyadic coping variables and parenting stress were mediated by relationship satisfaction. Qualitative data indicated that parents experience a range of emotions related to parenting their child, and that parenting stress has mixed impacts on their couple relationship. Couples also described a range of coping behaviors that were facilitated through the couple relationship. Implications for clinicians and future research are discussed.



Autism, Parenting stress, Coping, Couples relationship