The Influence of Coparenting Support on Fathers of Children with Autism

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 12, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
J. L. Bloom and M. N. Gragg, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
Background: Fathers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) experience a great deal of parenting stress, and report having to prioritize their coparenting relationship above their marital relationship, to appropriately care for their children. For fathers of typically developing children (TD), supportive coparenting relationships are related to fathers’ well-being, self-efficacy, and involvement, however, these relationships have not been directly studied with fathers of children with ASD. Self-determination theory suggests that individuals who are supported and confident in their abilities for a behaviour will be more intrinsically motivated to engage in this, will enjoy this more, and will have greater well-being. For fathers of children with ASD, supportive coparenting relationships may influence their involvement, in both play and child-care, and their well-being.

Objectives: The present study investigated the quality of coparenting support received by fathers of children with ASD and the influence of this on fathers, including: involvement in play, involvement in child-care, motivation for involvement, and parenting stress. Fathers’ qualitative responses to 3 survey questions and 6 questions during an optional telephone interview were also examined.

Methods: An online survey was completed by 66 fathers of children with ASD aged 4 to 11 years. The survey included a child ASD screening measure, and questions regarding fathers’ coparenting relationship quality, involvement in play and child-care, satisfaction and motivation for involvement, and parenting stress. Participants (Mage = 40.2) were primarily biological fathers, married, Caucasian, from Canada, with a post-secondary education, and living in the same home as their children (sons = 54) with ASD (Mage = 6.9). The majority of fathers lived with their coparent (Mage = 37.8) who were primarily spouses. An optional phone interview was conducted with 7 participants, including 6 questions related to their involvement, their coparenting support, and their well-being.

Data collection is ongoing and it is expected that, in total, 120 fathers will complete the online survey and 20 fathers will complete the optional phone interview.

Results: Overall, fathers reported supportive coparenting relationships (Mtotal = 5.25, subscales ranged from M = 4.6 to M = 6.2, on a 7-point Likert scale). Multiple regression analyses revealed that greater coparenting relationship quality predicted lower parenting stress, and greater satisfaction with involvement in both play and child-care. In turn, greater satisfaction with involvement in play predicted more frequent involvement in play. Greater satisfaction with involvement in child-care similarly predicted more involvement in child-care. Responses to open-ended questions on the survey and phone interview will be analyzed using thematic analysis.

Conclusions: Results suggested that the support fathers receive from their coparent can have an important influence on fathers’ parenting stress and their involvement with their children with ASD. These findings are consistent with the literature for fathers of TD. Given that raising children with ASD may place a strain on the marital relationship, these results highlight the value of supportive coparenting relationships for fathers of children with ASD. Implications for maintaining supportive coparenting relationships and incorporating coparenting dynamics into parent-training programs will be discussed.