Objectives: To evaluate the effects of age, gender, race, and level of speech on problem behaviors in a sample of children and adolescents with AD as measured by parent report on the ABC.
Methods: Parents completed the ABC for 244 children and adolescents with a current ADI-R diagnosis of AD. Level of speech was based on ADI-R criteria for verbal vs. nonverbal. Multivariate ANOVAs were used to evaluate the effects of age (under 13 years, n=200; 13 years and older, n=44), race (Caucasian, n=181; non-caucasian, n=63), gender (male, n=192; female, n=52) and level of speech (verbal, n=162; nonverbal, n=82) on the ABC total and subscale scores.
Results: There were no significant differences in Total Score, Irritability, Lethargy, Stereotypy, Hyperactivity, or Inappropriate Speech for age or gender alone. Caucasians’ scores were significantly higher than non-caucasians for Irritability, F(1, 243)=3.908, p=0.049, hyperactivity, F(1, 243)=5.974, p=0.015, and total score, F(1, 243)=5.979, p=0.015. There was a race by age interaction effect, with non-caucasians scoring significantly lower on Hyperactivity, F(1,243)=6.381, p=0.012 than the other groups. Verbal individuals scored significantly higher on Irritability, F(1,243)=7.703, p=0.006 and Inappropriate Speech, F(1,244)=35.192, p=0.000).
Conclusions: From this study we can conclude that age and gender do not affect the parent perceived severity of problem behaviors for children or adolescents as measured by the ABC. However, parental perceptions of problem behaviors differed. Overall Caucasian parents report more problems with irritability and hyperactivity than reported by non-caucasian parents. The interaction effect showed that non-caucasian adolescents were rated the least hyperactive. Parents also perceived their verbal children as significantly more irritable than their nonverbal children. The differences in parent perceptions by race and by speech need to be evaluated independently in a larger study to determine whether these are true differences or differences based on cultural perception. This will help to determine more appropriate interventions and supports to families.