Recent research from the American Psychological Association (APA) has found that parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be at risk for lower marital quality, although they also report major positive affect related to parenting.

Funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has allowed longitudinal studies of 182 children with ASD and their families over the course of three years. The research is focused in part on the "spillover hypothesis," which proposes that "tension resulting from parenting challenges may be carried into marital interactions" and vice versa. This has received support from current data. Another hypothesis, that parenting conversation topics between these partners cause undue stress, has received less support. The level of distress following said conversations is generally low and mimics the patterns of distress found in the general population when it is higher.

The studies have also found that there is high variability of marriage quality within their samples. A large number of relationships remain strong and a large number of parents report primarily joy from parenting a child with ASD. Risk factors the studies have found for lower marital quality include "a lower household income, a higher level of parental broader autism phenotype (i.e., mild autism-like personality traits), and having multiple children with special care needs."

To read the full article, please visit the APA website.