The nature and impact of caring for family members with a disability in Australia

by Ben Edwards, Daryl J. Higgins, Matthew Gray, Norbert Zmijewski, Marcia Kingston

Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2008.
ISBN 978-1-921414-02-2. ISSN 1447-1469 (Print); 1477-1477 (Online).

Full Report - The nature and impact of caring for family members with a disability in Australia (PDF 3.3 MB)

This report mentions autism in several contexts. In particular, SECTION C Family relationships and support networks discusses The dimensions of family functioning. It says ...

Adaptability
Families where a member has a disability are more rigid (Martin & Cole, 1993).Poor family adaptability was the most powerful predictor of carer depression (Deimling, Smerglia, & Schaefer, 2001).Parents of a child with an autism spectrum disorder had lower adaptability than population norms (Higgins et al., 2005).
Cohesion
Parents of a child with an autism spectrum disorder had lower cohesion than population norms (Higgins et al., 2005).Parents of children with ADHD reported more problems with expressiveness (Pressman et al., 2006).
Marital relationship satisfaction
Primary care providers of children with autism spectrum disorder reported lower marital satisfaction than population norms (Higgins et al., 2005).Parents caring for a child with a disability have an increased risk of separation/divorce (Risdal & Singer, 2004)
Parent-child relationship satisfaction
Caring for a person with a disability may influence both the relationship with the person with a disability, and relationships with any other siblings.Mothers of children with autism reported a closer relationship with their child than mothers of children with similar levels of social skills but not diagnosed with autism (Montes & Halterman, 2007).

In relation to Family functioning in the face of stress it says ...

Some studies report negative psychosocial consequences for these siblings, but these are usually dependent on the severity of the disabling conditions experienced (siblings of children with autism experience more negative psychosocial outcomes when compared with siblings of children with Down Syndrome) (Cuskelly & Hayes, 2004).

About Chronic illness/disability and caring its says ...

For example, researchers have found higher levels of maternal stress, family strain, lower social support, and greater use of avoidant coping strategies associated with parenting a child with autism spectrum disorder (Higgins et al., 2005; Montes & Halterman, 2007). Parents of a child with an autism spectrum disorder also had lower adaptability and cohesion and more problems with expressiveness than population norms (Higgins et al., 2005; Pressman et al., 2006).