Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Judy Shoemaker

Committee Member

Sheery Burke


Parenting children with autism can be challenging obviously; still, active involvement of the parents is considered vital in the development of the child. The term parental agency refers to adopting a proactive role and engaging in numerous activities to promote the child’s development. Little research has been conducted to analyze factors that could predict agency.

Dispositional optimism, which refers to expecting good things in life regardless of particular situations, has not been extensively studied in parents of children with autism. Nevertheless, the few studies conducted on the topic show it to be a desirable trait. Therefore, it is an important characteristic that needs to be studied in this population.

This applied dissertation was designed to examine a possible relationship between dispositional optimism and parental agency. Specifically, the main question explored was whether or not parents with higher level of dispositional optimism also reported higher agency. The writer administered via online the Life Orientation Test-Revised to measure dispositional optimism along with the Agency questionnaire to a group of parents (N = 126). A correlation between the two variables was not established. Other findings from the study suggest that maternal agency is significantly higher than that of males. Also, agency was not found to be related to age of the child, or parental education; however, there was a significant effect of non-white females on agency scores. Findings from this study point to the importance of implementing positive psychology strategies and promoting positive emotions among mothers of children with autism.

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