Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Lisa Ruble


The after-high-school outcomes for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families are less than desirable. The current study employed an exploratory sequential mixed methods design in order to enhance understanding of the family adaptation process during transition. First, a qualitative study was conducted in order to understand the stressors, external and internal support, coping strategies, and family adaptation outcomes during transition, from a parent’s perspective, using the ABCX model. Thirteen parents of adolescents and young adults with ASD were interviewed. These parents reported a continually high level of stress due to normative strains and ASD-related demands. They clearly described the tangible, emotional, informational, and internal resources both received and needed. Parents, as active agents in their children’s lives, have their own views towards transition, philosophy, and ways of coping. Even though many of them reported negative experiences, these parents also found new meanings and happiness in their lives.

Based on the literature review and the qualitative results, a quantitative study was then developed, which applied the ABCX model to understand the predictors of good parent transition outcomes and investigate the mediating mechanism between stressors and parent transition outcomes. At the indicator level, autism severity, mental health crisis/challenging behaviors, filial obligation, general social support, transition planning quality, parent-teacher alliance, parenting efficacy, problem-focused coping, avoidance-focused coping, and optimism were important predictors of the four benchmarks of parents’ outcomes (i.e., parents’ burden, parents’ transition experience, parents’ subjective health, and family quality of life). At the structural level, optimism, emotion-coping strategies, and resources mediated the relationships between stressors and parents’ outcomes. Research and practical applications are discussed.

Findings across the two studies led to identification of key factors that influence the outcomes of parents of adolescents and young adults with ASD, as well as an understanding of the complex relationships among the predictors. The results build upon existing empirical and theoretical work related to the transition of families of adolescents and young adults with ASD. Recommendations for future research and clinical practices are discussed.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)