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Fathers play important roles in the lives of all members of their families and the fathering role can be particularly important in families where there is a child on the autism spectrum. As with mothers, the parenting of a child on the autism spectrum can have adverse influence on fathers and the relationships that they share across family. Mothers tend to take on a central role in the relationships that families share with services and schools and this central role in often amplified where there is a child on the autism spectrum. As a result, autism services often find it difficult to engage with fathers or sustain the participation of those fathers who do engage in programs.
Research in other social services indicates that text messaging can be an effective way to engage fathers in long term interventions, get information to them, link them to further information, influence their thinking and effect change in their parenting and relationship behaviours.

Could text messaging be an effective way for autism services to engage with fathers of children on the autism spectrum?

The research

This research study, lead by Positive Partnerships, is investigating if it is feasible and acceptable to engage fathers of children on the autism spectrum in a text-based intervention that is designed to reduce parenting stress, enhance parenting self-efficacy and enhance co-parenting competence.
The text messages that are being sent to the fathers who are taking part in this study are addressing factors in fathers’ relationships with their family that are known to be associated with parenting stress.
The study is also assessing the fathers’ perceptions of the experience.

Making a difference

Identifying an effective way to engage fathers in services and programs for their child who is on the autism spectrum, while also reducing parenting stress and enhancing their parenting self-efficacy and co-parenting competence will be valuable in supporting healthy family environments for children on the autism spectrum.

Positive Partnerships researchers

Alison Macrae, Laura Owens, Craig Smith






University of Newcastle, Australia


The study is funded by Positive Partnerships, a national project delivered by Aspect with funding from the Australian Government Department of Education and Training through the Helping Children with Autism package.