Date of Conferral







Patricia Heisser-Metoyer


Drawing on Bowen's family systems theory, this study was designed to fill a gap in research regarding how raising a child with autism impacts the systemic functioning of a family unit, and provide evidence of the need for more comprehensive resources and support for families of children with autism. In this study, families of children with autism were invited to complete the Parenting Stress Index and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. These measures were used to determine the relationship between the level of problem behavior of a child with autism and the level of problem behavior of a typically-developing sibling when these variables are moderated by maternal parenting stress. For each family, a secondary caregiver perspective on the problem behavior of the typically developing sibling was also considered. A purposeful sampling procedure yielded only 21 usable pairs of data on primary caregiver parenting stress and problem behavior of a child with autism; thus, the planned analyses were revised and a bivariate correlation was run on these variables. Although this revised study did not yield significant results in the particular sample obtained, it highlights the challenges encountered when intending to run research such as this and indicated ways future researcher could attempt to proactively address these challenges. This study also shows the potential for positive social change from more comprehensive supports for families of children with autism that may decrease parenting stress, reduce problem behaviors of typically-developing siblings, and improve treatment outcomes for children with autism.