Families and relationships

This research theme is led by Dr Katherine Shelton, a developmental psychologist with a particular interest in the importance of family relationships and family functioning on psychological well-being.

New research planned in this area will explore how child symptoms of ASD interact with parent anxiety, depression and physical health problems. At the level of the family system, the question is how family processes operate among families where a child and/or parents themselves have symptoms of ASD. The associated behaviour problems of ASD may exert an additive effect, with poor family functioning adding to children’s anxiety and depression. Alternatively, these risk factors may best be conceptualised as multiplicative.  Another question is whether relationship quality with other family members acts to buffer any negative effect of ASD child symptoms on parent mental health.

New research will also highlight how having a parent with ASD can influence outcomes for the child and how genetic and environmental factors interact. There might be particular time points when family contribution plays an important role, for example in the transition from adolescence to adulthood, with genetic and environmental factors linked to resilience in the transition. In a separate strand of research, led by Beverley Winn, we are also investigating relationship satisfaction between adults when at least one in the couple has ASD.