Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department or School


Committee Member

Dr. Silvia von Kluge (chair)

Committee Member

Dr. Nina A. Nabors

Committee Member

Dr. Carol Freedman-Doan


We looked at how a child with autism affects the dynamics and coping behaviors of a family. A majority of studies on families with a child with autism collect information from the mother but not the father. Therefore, this study examined the involvement of both parents from a family systems theory approach, which compares relationships among different familial variables, to determine the contributions of each individual to the developmental outcomes of the family unit. It was hypothesized that moderate levels of cohesion and adaptability would be associated with higher levels of positive coping mechanisms. Further, the more 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, and more likely to implement positive coping strategies, and would perceive more social support than fathers. Results suggest that enmeshed families generally implement more positive coping strategies than other cohesion styles. Further, mothers perceive more social support from their family and friends than fathers do. It appears that families of children with autism have family styles similar to a normed group of families, except there were more chaotic and less rigid families in this sample. Future research ideas and possible implications of these findings are discussed.