Kim L. Bolling is a 2015 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee

George Tremblay, PhD, Committee Chair
David Arbeitman, PhD, Committee Member
William Slammon, PhD, Committee Member


Asperger's Syndrome, Aspergers Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, autism, marital satisfaction, couples, relationship, MSI, MSI-R

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Few empirical studies exist that examine adult Asperger-affected relationships. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the marital satisfaction of individuals in relationships in which at least one partner has Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), differs in some significant way from the marital satisfaction of individuals in relationships in which neither partner has AS/ASD. Participants were 126 adults in relationships in which at least one partner had a diagnosis of AS or ASD, recruited from Asperger- and autism-related websites, social media, and organizations from English-speaking countries. Couples consisted of heterosexual and same-sex couples, couples with and without children, and couples in which either the male and/or the female partner had an AS/ASD diagnosis. Members of each couple responded independently. Using an online version of the Marital Satisfaction Inventory, Revised (MSI R), the mean scores of individuals in AS/ASD-affected relationships were compared with the normative data of the MSI R for males and females on each of 10 dimensions of marital satisfaction, resulting in 20 comparisons. The dimensions of martial satisfaction included global distress, affective communication, problem solving communication, time together, aggression, sexual dissatisfaction, disagreement about finances, family history of distress, dissatisfaction with children, and conflict over child rearing. Comparisons were made using independent samples t-tests. Because of the highly significant results, step-down procedures were not needed to correct for possible inflation of Type 1 errors. Of the 20 comparisons, 15 demonstrated significantly more dissatisfaction among individuals in AS/ASD-affected relationships than those from the normative data sample, at p < .001. In all cases, individuals in AS/ASD-affected partnerships were more dissatisfied than their normative sample counterparts. Separate analyses revealed that NT individuals were less satisfied than their AS/ASD partners. Women reported higher levels of sexual dissatisfaction than men. Findings of lower marital satisfaction for AS/ASD-affected relationships replicate those of a similar, prior study, but differ from two other studies that found no difference in marital satisfaction related to partner AS/ASD status. Future research, clinical implications, and alternatives to traditional couples counseling are discussed.


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