Coparenting and Well-Being in Mothers and Fathers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 12, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
N. Ekas, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, TX
Background: Fathers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been relatively neglected in research; however, recent research has investigated the quality of the coparenting relationship and its association with parental well-being (May, Fletcher, Dempsey, & Newman, 2015). Parents of children with ASD typically have lower levels of well-being and romantic relationship quality (Gau et al., 2012). However, a positive coparenting relationship beneficially impacts well-being (May et al., 2015). One factor that may influence the quality of the coparenting relationship are parental perceptions of the father’s role in raising his children (Schoppe-Sullivan et al., 2008).

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine associations between perceptions of the father’s role, coparenting relationship quality, and well-being in mothers and fathers of children with ASD.

Methods: Thirty-three cohabitating couples of a child with ASD (age 4–12) completed online questionnaires to assess perceptions of the role of the father (ROFQ), the quality of the coparenting relationship (CRS), depressive symptoms (CESD), and romantic relationship satisfaction (CSI).

Results: For fathers, coparenting closeness mediated the relationship between paternal perceptions of the role of the father and depressive symptoms (95% CI: -.69, -.01) and relationship satisfaction (95% CI: .05, 3.34). Greater perceptions of the role of the father were associated with greater coparenting closeness, b = .07, SE = .04, p < .05, which was associated with fewer depressive symptoms, b = -2.81, SE =1.19, p < .05, and higher romantic relationship satisfaction, b = 15.72, SE = 2.75, p < .001. For mothers, coparenting closeness also mediated the relationship between maternal perceptions of the role of the father and depressive symptoms (95% CI: -.92, -.08) and romantic relationship satisfaction (95% CI: .67, 3.26). The pattern of associations was similar to that for fathers.

Conclusions: This study provides preliminary evidence that the coparenting relationship is associated with better individual well-being and better dyadic well-being. Although studies have yet to investigate the role of the father in the context of ASD, it appears that both mothers and fathers believe that the father has an important role, which allows them to not only be closer as parents but also as a couple. Therefore, interventions could help enhance perceptions of a father’s role to encourage a positive coparenting relationship in order to benefit well-being.