Title

Exploring family resilience through the experiences of mothers raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Science

Faculty

Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Dr Elizabeth Kaczmarek

Abstract

Raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be a challenging experience for the child’s family, and the negative impact of this has been well documented in the literature. However, there have also been some indications that families can, and do, develop resilience in the years that follow a diagnosis of ASD; and report many positive insights, strengths, and benefits gained from their journey. As such, the aim of this study was to explore the nature and development of family resilience; as reflected through the lived experiences of mothers raising a child with ASD. Using an interpretive phenomenological approach, in-depth interviews were conducted with 10 mothers of children with ASD (diagnosed at least three years ago). Analysis of the data revealed the emergence of four main themes that were each consistent with the family resilience perspective: knowledge is power, social reassessments, family solidarity, and growth through experience. Throughout their shared journeys, the majority of participants described a process of adaption, which enabled the family to overcome the challenges faced and find a positive way forward. Therefore, these findings provide direction and focus for the development of future interventions that may strengthen families through building resilience. A noted limitation of this study was that it relied solely on the subjective experiences of the mothers, who spoke on behalf of the family as a whole. Subsequently, further research is recommended to extend the present findings by collecting interview data from fathers, siblings, and grandparents of children with ASD.

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