The goal of the present study was to expand on the existing literature exploring families with children who have developmental disabilities, particularly autism. Previous studies have been constrained by univariate approaches that have failed to adequately capture the nuances of family functioning. Using an ecological/context approach, stemming from an ongoing research program conducted within a university-based treatment center, the present study attempted to improve on the conceptualization of interrelationships among family members and the role that contextual factors play within that dynamic. Specifically, the present study explored the influence of children’s level of autism on parents’ reports of their marital satisfaction and examined whether parents’ perception of the adequacy of their resources influenced any demonstrated effects of autism on marital adjustment.

Data were collected from approximately 117 parents of children enrolled in the treatment program. Parents who volunteered completed a survey that included all of the instruments utilized in the present study: the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS), which measured severity of autistic behavior, the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS), which assessed parents’ reports of their marital satisfaction, and the Perceived Adequacy of Resources Scale (PARS), which measured parents' perceptions of the adequacy of their resources.

Correlational analyses verified that as severity of autism increased, marital satisfaction decreased and revealed a negative relationship between severity of autism and perceived adequacy of resources. Finally, hierarchical multiple regression analysis was conducted to test whether perception of adequate resources would serve as a moderator between severity of autism and marital satisfaction; however, these findings did not yield statistically significant results The framework used at the treatment center, and implications for further research to support empirically based interventions will be discussed.

LLU Discipline





Graduate School

First Advisor

Charles D. Hoffman

Second Advisor

Louis E. Jenkins

Third Advisor

Matt L. Riggs

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Autistic Disorder; Parents -- psychology; Marriage -- psychology; Family Relations -- psychology


Doctoral Project

Page Count

ix; 49

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives