Distress and Psychological Growth in Parenting an Adult Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Aggression
Linda Swaab completed her fourth year Honours in Psychology research in our lab with the additional supervision of Dr Lynne McCormack. Dr McCormack is an expert on qualitative research which an exploratory research method used to gain an understanding of how people reason, what opinions they have, and what their motivations are. Linda was interested in exploring the lived experience of parents with children who not only have an autism spectrum disorder but also who has intermittent outbursts of aggression.
For her study, Linda interviewed three parents of adult sons, aged between 20-30, with ASD who display intermittent and unpredictable aggressive behaviours towards family members. The participants took part in a one hour long interview and then the interviews were transcribed and analysed using a methodology known as three may interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA; to learn more about this methodology, click here)
When analysing the data, the overarching theme of the discourse was of complex parental distress and but also positive psychological growth. More specifically, the themes describe the psychological and emotional unpredictability that was relentless in daily life whilst parenting a child diagnosed with ASD complicated by outbursts of aggressive behaviour. Parents described experiencing a constant anticipation of potentially traumatic events. Parents also described experiencing powerful emotions of frustration, empathy, pity and an intense need to protect the child with ASD who displays aggression were in contrast with felt stigma and societal criticism. In time, parents developed their own pragmatic survival strategies for functioning as a family that could accommodate each family member’s needs as much as possible. Psychological well-being became a balance of striving for personal psychological growth despite the constancy of anticipatory traumatic events
If you would like to read the whole article, please click on the citation below. I am also glad to let you know that Linda has commenced a PhD to further study the area of parenting when having a child displaying aggressive behaviours.
Swaab, L., McCormack, L., & Campbell, L. E. (2017). Distress and Psychological Growth in Parenting an Adult Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Aggression. Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 1-11.