Exploring Partner Intimacy among Couples Raising Children on the Autism Spectrum: A Grounded Theory Investigation

By Johnson, Jake; Piercy, Fred P. | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, October 2017 | Go to article overview

Exploring Partner Intimacy among Couples Raising Children on the Autism Spectrum: A Grounded Theory Investigation


Johnson, Jake, Piercy, Fred P., Journal of Marital and Family Therapy


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects one out of every 68 children in the United States (and one in 42 boys), over double the figure of one out of every 150 children reported by the CDC just a decade ago (CDC, 2012). Research also demonstrates that ASD affects not only the children who have been diagnosed with a disorder but also those who have been charged with caring for them. In particular, studies have found that the stressors of caring for a child with ASD can negatively impact the physical and psychological well-being of mothers (Allik, Larsson, & Smedje, 2006; Barker et al., 2011; Hastings, 2003), fathers (Hastings, 2003; Mugno, Ruta, D'Arrigo, & Mazzone, 2007), and other primary caregivers (Higgins, Bailey, & Pearce, 2005).

Additionally, studies focused on how couple dyads experience and are affected by raising children with ASD suggest that these couples are susceptible to more negative relationship outcomes, including less experiences of intimacy in their relationships, than couples raising neuro-typical children (Gau et al., 2012; Hartley et al., 2010; Myers, Mackintosh, & Goin-Kochel, 2009). However, other research indicates no significant difference in experiences of intimacy among couples raising children with ASD as compared to couples raising neuro-typical children (Freedman, Kalb, Zablotsky, & Stuart, 2012) and instead demonstrates that couples of children with ASD may experience an increased sense of intimacy despite the unique stressors associated with caring for children with ASD (Bayat, 2007; Cowan, 2010; Hock, Timm, & Ramisch, 2012; Marciano, Drasgow, & Carlson, 2015).

Given these differing results, we became interested in exploring why it is that some couples caring for children with ASD experienced more intimacy in their relationships than others. Of particular interest to us were the processes by which couples raising children with ASD came to experience more or less partner intimacy, what outside factors influenced these processes, and how these processes change over time.

ASD and Associated Parental Stressors

Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that manifests itself through impairments in social communication and social interaction, as well as through patterns of repetitive and restricted behaviors (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). Individuals with ASD may vary greatly in terms of symptomatology and comorbid diagnoses (e.g., ADHD, anxiety disorders, intellectual disability) thus giving credence to the term "spectrum."

Unlike other developmental disabilities, ASD has no known cause and is not necessarily apparent at birth. Rather, ASD symptoms are more commonly noted during the first 1224 months of life (APA, 2013). Furthermore, one cannot necessarily look at a child with ASD and know that he or she is not neuro-typical. As such, parents may experience the ambiguous loss (Boss, 2006) of their child with ASD when the child shows signs of delayed development and is no longer socially or emotionally who they used to be and/or the child has the appearance of neurotypical development but is not, in fact, developing neuro-typically. This paradox of the simultaneous presence and absence of children with ASD can keep parents from knowing how to adequately grieve their losses or even knowing what losses they should grieve (O'Brien, 2007).

Additionally, parents of children with ASD must often deal with the presentation of particular disruptive forms of ASD-related behaviors. For example, children with ASD frequently display various types of self-stimulatory/self-soothing behaviors (e.g., hand flapping, body rocking) and stereotypic behaviors, such as fixating on certain parts of objects (e.g., the wheels on a toy car) or playing with their toys in only certain ritualized ways (e.g., repeatedly having to line up one's toys in a particular and unchangeable fashion). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Exploring Partner Intimacy among Couples Raising Children on the Autism Spectrum: A Grounded Theory Investigation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.