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J Fam Psychol. 2012 Oct;26(5):688-97. doi: 10.1037/a0029354. Epub 2012 Aug 6.

Marital satisfaction and life circumstances of grown children with autism across 7 years.

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  • 1Waisman Center and Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53705, USA.


We examined the extent to which marital satisfaction across 7 years in 199 mothers was associated with the characteristics (gender, age, and intellectual disability status) of their adolescent or adult child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and whether fluctuations in marital satisfaction covaried with the child's autism symptoms, health, behavior problems, and closeness in the parent-child relationship. We also examined the impact of the departure of the adult child out of the family home on mothers' marital satisfaction. The effect of family context variables including the presence of an additional child with a disability, maternal education, and household income on marital satisfaction were also examined. We found that closeness in the mother-child relationship and household income had a significant effect on level of marital satisfaction, and that variability in the slope of mothers' marital satisfaction was significantly predicted by fluctuations in the behavior problems of the adolescent or adult child with an ASD. The grown child's departure out of the family home was not related to change in marital satisfaction. Interventions aimed at managing the behavior problems of adolescents and adults with ASDs may help strengthen parents' marital relationship.

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