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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Fathers of children with autism : the impact of a support group on fathers' stress, depression, coping, and marital satisfaction Elfert, Miriam


The purpose of this study was to design and evaluate the impact of a support group for fathers of children with autism, using quantitative measures to examine participants’ psychological experiences. Twelve fathers of children with autism participated in the study, which employed a two-group pretest-posttest design and a measure of social validity. The two groups were comprised of six fathers each, who attended eight weekly 2-hour sessions that focused on various topics related to parenting a child with autism. Sample topics included fathers’ experiences with the diagnosis, dealing with the education system, the impact on personal and professional relationships of parenting a child with autism, and future hopes and fears. All participants completed the Beck Depression Inventory-II, the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS), the Parenting Stress Index 4th Edition, the Life Orientation Test-Revised, the Ways of Coping Questionnaire, a demographic form, and a social validity questionnaire regarding participation in the group. Group 1 completed the formal test measures prior to the start of their group, upon completion, and 4 months later. Group 2 completed these measures prior to the start of their own group, and upon completion. Data were analyzed using a 2X2 mixed model analysis of variance with Group as the between-subjects factor and Time as the within-subjects factor. Results indicated no significant main effects for either Group or Time between baseline and post-treatment for any of the measures. However, there was a significant interaction effect for marital adjustment via the DAS, and follow-up independent sample t-tests showed a significant improvement for Group 2 only. For Group 1, paired samples t-tests indicated no change in scores between post-treatment and follow-up on any measure. Responses to the social validity measure indicated that all fathers found the groups to be meaningful and helpful, enjoyed listening to and sharing personal experiences with other men in similar circumstances, and strongly recommended a similar group to other fathers of children with autism. Results are discussed in terms of their contribution to the literature, limitations and cautions, and implications for practitioners and researchers who support and study fathers of children with autism.  

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