FIT Science for Improving Family Functioning and Parental Stress
This thesis used FIT Science (Fletcher & Stead, 2000) as a framework to study different aspects of family functioning. FIT variables measure the cognitive and behavioural characteristics of a person that mediate interpretations of events and attempts at coping with constraints. The research sought to examine whether scores on FIT variables explain differences in perceptions of family functioning and outcomes such as individual stress levels. In the first questionnaire study, members of the general population (N=235) completed The FIT Profiler (Fletcher, 1999), which measures scores on FIT variables, and the Family Assessment Device (Epstein, Baldwin & Bishop, 1983), which measures family functioning across six dimensions. The study found that higher scores on FIT variables were associated with more positive experiences of the family. A similar pattern of results was observed in study two involving participants (N=52) with Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASCs). The results of the studies suggested that FIT Science is a useful framework to study family functioning in diverse contexts. Study three compared the stress and perceptions of family functioning of mothers of typically developing children (n=55), and children with ASCs (n=33). Mothers scoring high on FIT variables had better perceptions of family functioning, were less anxious and depressed, and also coped better with the demands of parenting. Studies four and five explored whether FIT Science also offers a useful framework for promoting changes in family functioning and individual well being. Study four reported a randomized control trial of a FIT-‐Do Something Different (FIT-‐DSD) intervention, which was administered to mothers (n=13) of children with ASCs. The FIT-‐DSD intervention aimed at expanding behavioural flexibility and disrupting constraining habits. Study five reported a qualitative follow-‐up of the intervention group in study four. 17 The results of studies four and five suggested that the FIT-‐DSD intervention was a useful and novel tool to help mothers across a number of domains of family life. Relative to a wait-‐list control group (n=11), the intervention group reported moderate to large improvements in their levels of parenting stress, depression, relationship satisfaction and scores on the cognitive FIT variable Self-‐responsibility. Qualitative investigation also suggested that the intervention helped mothers develop feelings of control, self-‐esteem and self-‐efficacy. The thesis suggests that FIT Science offers a fruitful framework with which to study and intervene with family functioning. Further research seeking to explore the use of FIT Science as a vehicle for family change is recommended. This may help promote better physical and psychological health for individuals struggling with their environmental and self-‐generated constraints.