Child-present and child-themed marital conflict in daily life of parents of children with and without autism spectrum disorder.

Parents of 5- to 12-year-old children (half had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder [ASD] and half were typically developing) provided reports of the most significant marital conflict of the day and ratings of child behaviors problems on a daily basis for 14 days. Mothers and fathers in the ASD group reported having more conflicts in daily life with any children present and more conflicts with the target child present than their counterparts with typically developing children did. Fathers (but not mothers) in the ASD group reported more conflicts as including child-related themes, although parents across the groups did not differ in their reporting marital conflict that specifically discussed the study’s target child. Results from multilevel modeling revealed within-person associations between child presence during marital conflict and parents’ emotions; specifically, child presence was related to lower dyadic positivity and higher dyadic anger, according to both mothers and fathers. In addition, results identified significant, positive within-person associations between child presence during marital conflict and discussing certain conflict topics (increased likelihoods of discussing any children and the study’s target children). These direct associations were found consistently across mothers’ and fathers’ reports, and did not vary across ASD and comparison families. Multilevel models focused on implications of the marital conflict for the study’s target children generally found child presence during conflict and discussion of child-themed conflict topics to predict higher levels of behavior problems in daily life. One moderating effect was identified, with child presence during conflict related to higher behavior problems according to mothers in the ASD group but not those in the comparison group. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)