Peace, Natalie R.
Expressed emotion and adjustment in families with children with autism spectrum conditions.
University of Southampton, School of Psychology,
Children with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) present with social and communication deficits, and patterns of restricted and repetitive behaviours (APA, 2000). These difficulties have significant impacts for families, including increased levels of stress and mental health problems when compared to parents raising children with other developmental or intellectual conditions (e.g. Singer, 2006). Research has sought to understand this impact and to identify the factors that place parents at risk for poor adjustment outcomes so that interventions can be effectively tailored to facilitate improved outcomes for families. This thesis reviews the adjustment literature and considers how it fits within a widely used model of adjustment, the Double ABCX model (McCubbin & Patterson, 1983). It then goes on to consider the importance of the parent-child relationship for adjustment via the construct of Expressed Emotion (EE), and explores how this literature adds to our understanding of the adjustment process in families of children with ASC.
Next, the role of EE in the adjustment process of families of children with ASC is investigated. A mediation model is proposed that incorporates a measure of EE within the Double ABCX model. The validity of this model is tested in a sample of primary caregivers who have children with ASC. Whilst the results of the study indicate that EE does not have a mediating role in the adjustment of these families, the study has a number of limitations and suggestions for future research that are discussed in detail.
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