Objectives: To investigate the early development of attachment security and empathy in ASD-sibs as compared to TD-sibs.
Methods: 20 TD- and 20 ASD-sibs were measured for attachment security at 15 months and empathic responding at 24 months. Attachment security was assessed using the Strange Situation procedure. Empathic responding was measured from children’s responses to parental distress during a free play session.
Results: Initial classification of a subset of our sample has revealed secure and resistant organized attachment strategies as well as evidence of attachment disorganization. A preliminary review of our empathy protocol suggested a wide range of empathic responses. Exploration of whether attachment security differentially influences the empathic responding abilities of the TD- and ASD-sib groups will be conducted using hierarchical regression procedures.
Conclusions: Investigation of infant attachment security and the development of empathy in children at risk for ASDs is important to better understand the singular and combined roles of these constructs in the early social and emotional development of ASD-sibs.