Family Adaptive Functioning in Autism

Annette Estes, Vanessa Hus and Lauren Elder

in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780195371826
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199965212 | DOI:
Family Adaptive Functioning in Autism

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  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • Neurology
  • Neuroscience


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Adaptive functioning for an individual is considered the ability of an individual to carry out age-appropriate skills needed to function in daily life, such as dressing, eating, following rules, avoiding accidents, and making friends. The specific activities of families that contribute to improved outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) can be considered “family adaptive functioning.” This chapter is organized as follows. The first section focuses on four constructs related to parental contributors to family adaptive functioning: parenting-related stress, parental psychological distress, parental psychological functioning, and parent coping strategies. It discusses research findings related to these constructs in families with children with ASDs, and presents specific measures of these constructs. The second section presents several key threats and supports to family adaptive functioning: family characteristics, stressful life events, spousal relations, social support, and child characteristics. Measures of each threat and support and relevance to families of children with ASDs are discussed. The chapter concludes with a discussion of connections between interventions for ASD and family adaptive functioning. Evidence regarding the impact of three types of intervention—early intensive behavioral intervention, parent training, and interventions directly targeting parent stress—on family adaptive functioning is discussed.

Chapter.  11690 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry ; Neurology ; Neuroscience

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