Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Karen Suyemoto

Second Advisor

Ester Shapiro

Third Advisor

Frances Martinez Padraza


Families of individuals on the autism spectrum encounter a range of relational opportunities and challenges throughout the life course. Within the “autism” family, non-autistic siblings are uniquely situated and can possess one of the longest lasting relationships with the autistic child-family member (i.e., their sibling). For Asian Americans of Confucian-ethnic heritage, the centrality of familism and the integral role of relationship-oriented family dynamics are profoundly important; and, may operate in ways that have not been explicitly considered or examined by the mainstream (i.e., Euro-centric) field of autism research and clinical practice. Likewise, the voices and perspectives of individuals from marginalized family backgrounds (e.g., immigrant, lower SES, limited-English-speaking household, etc.) are largely absent within the existing body of autism literature. To address these shortcomings and limited understandings, this constructivist grounded theory interviewed twelve Asian American non-autistic adult siblings of individuals with autism, to answer the research questions: How do adult individuals who have an autistic sibling within Asian American immigrant families from Confucian-ethnic heritages experience their family relationships and relational processes? How are these relational experiences and processes influenced by the interaction of autism and racial/cultural experience? How do these relational experiences and processes change over time? The emerged theoretical model focuses on family processes of connectedness, obligation, empathy, and communication, and the influence of autism and cultural values on the ways in which these processes are (re)negotiated across the life course and family life cycle.


Free and open access to this Campus Access Thesis is made available to the UMass Boston community by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. Those not on campus and those without a UMass Boston campus username and password may gain access to this thesis through resources like Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global ( or through Interlibrary Loan. If you have a UMass Boston campus username and password and would like to download this work from off-campus, click on the "Off-Campus UMass Boston Users