Previous studies addressing the impact of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) on the family focus largely on the Caucasian population (Cassidy, McConkey, Truesdale-Kennedy, & Slevin, 2008; Hebert & Koulouglioti, 2010; N. Johnson, Frenn, Feetham, & Simpson, 2011; Myers, Mackintosh, & Goin-Kochel, 2009; Rao & Beidel, 2009). There is a dearth of research examining the impact of ASD on family dynamics in marginal groups. This study attempts to add to the sparse literature and to increase understanding of the specific experiences of minority parents of children with ASD. Family systems theory, family systems-illness model, and social constructivism frameworks inform this study and enhance understanding of the implications of ASD within the familial context. A qualitative methodology is used to develop theory of the minority parents’ experience. The study draws upon interviews obtained from minority and sociodisadvantaged parents residing in Southern California. Parents are invited to share their personal stories of their ASD journey. Constructivist grounded methodology, as described by Charmaz (2006), is used to answer four research questions: 1. What are the experiences of minority parents who have a child with ASD? 2. How do minority and underserved parents process ASD throughout their

family life cycle? 3. What factors influence how they process the condition? 4. What are the effects of ASD on the minority family unit, particularly its impact on the parental relationship? The aim of this inquiry is to use the parents’ experience to articulate a theory that captures how ASD is addressed in underrepresented families. Therefore, the dissertation that follows provides a detailed introduction to the issues related to minority families; as well as a review of the relevant literature, theoretical foundations, and methodological process used to investigate the parental experience. Finally, a publishable paper that includes a synopsis of the dissertation chapters concludes the research study. The publishable paper elaborates on a theory of minority parents pushing through autism. Implications for marriage and family therapy and other mental health professionals, ASD services providers, and policymakers who impact ASD research, services, and programs is provided. Limitations of the current epistemological research approach and recommendations for future studies are discussed.

LLU Discipline

Marriage and Family Therapy


Counseling and Family Sciences


School of Behavioral Health

First Advisor

Wilson, Colwick M.

Second Advisor

Fox, Curtis A.

Third Advisor

Oloo, Winetta Baker

Fourth Advisor

Rhodes, Rod

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Autistic Disorder; Family Characteristics; Health Behavior; Personal Narratives as Topic; Health Services Accessibility; Parent and Child; Family Therapy; Systems Theory; Developmental Disabilities - Child; Parenting; Family Relations; Minority Groups

Subject - Local

Autism Spectrum Disorder; Autism Diagnostic Observational Schedule; Developmental Disorder; Childhood Disintegrative Disorder; Family Dynamics



Page Count


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