How Couples Raising Children on the Autism Spectrum Negotiate Intimacy: A Grounded Theory Study

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Virginia Tech

This study has explored how couples raising children on the autism spectrum negotiate intimacy in their marriages/committed partnerships as well as what contextual factors influence these process and how they change over time. Twelve couples currently raising children on the autism spectrum were interviewed conjointly regarding their experiences of intimacy negotiation. A methodological approached based on constructivist grounded theory was used to analyze the data collected from these couples. The results of this study indicate that intimacy negotiation for couples raising children on the autism spectrum is an interactive process in which both partners must work together to make several key cognitive and relational shifts. Couples were either aided or hindered in making these shifts by the degree to which contextual and environmental factors were experienced as resources or roadblocks. The result of the degree to which couples raising children with ASDs navigate the necessary cognitive and relational shifts, also taking into account the influence of any contextual factors on these processes, was found to be a couple's experience of intimacy. However, this study also found that intimacy was not a fixed point at which a couple one day arrived, but was instead an iterative process taking place over time and requiring work to develop and maintain.

Autism Spectrum Disorders, Marriage, Intimate Relationships, Intimacy