Many early childhood behavioral assessments rely on parent and teacher reports of behavior. Historically, agreement between parent report and teacher report on ratings of child behaviors and psychopathology has been low to moderate (Achenbach, McConaughy, & Howell, 1987). However, research has demonstrated increased agreement between parent and teacher reports among younger children, including preschoolers (Vitaro, Gagnon, & Tremblay, 1991). For children with developmental delays, teachers can be a valuable resource for assessing behaviors and psychopathology, but it is important to understand the differences between parent and teacher reports. Low inter-rater agreement is often attributed to situational factors in home and school environments that produce different behaviors; however, there may be informant characteristics (i.e., maternal stress) that affect agreement (Winsler & Wallace, 2002). While research has shown that maternal stress accounts for increased reporting of problem behaviors in young children with autism spectrum disorders (Szatmari, Archer, Fisman, & Streiner, 1994), much less is known about the effect teacher burnout has on teacher reports of problem behaviors (Lecavalier, Leone, & Wiltz, 2006).
The purpose of this study is to assess the agreement between parent and teacher reports of behaviors on the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) and the Repetitive Behavior Scale-Revised (RBS-R). The SRS has been shown to be an effective gauge of autistic behaviors in both parent and teacher reports (Constantino, LaVesser, Zhang, Abbacchi, Gray, & Todd, 2007), thus high agreement is predicted. For the RBS-R, it is expected that associations between parent and teacher reports will fall in the low to moderate range. However, the RBS-R has not previously been given to teachers, so this study will provide a chance to explore the similarities and differences in responding. It is expected that maternal stress and teacher burnout will act as moderators in the relationship between parent and teacher report for both measures.
Data were collected as part of a larger multi-site study comparing preschool treatment models. The current study uses one site’s data, and preliminary analyses were conducted on data from one year. Parents and teachers of twenty preschoolers with autism spectrum disorders completed the SRS and the RBS-R. Parental stress was measured on the Parenting Stress Index and teacher burnout was measured on the Maslach Burnout Inventory.
Preliminary results found non-significant correlations between parent and teacher reports on the SRS. However, when examining the raw score differences between parent and teacher reports, highly stressed parents reported significantly lower scores on the SRS than teachers, compared to low stress parents, t (19) = 3.65, p < .01. Additionally, teachers who showed elevated levels of burnout had higher agreement with parent reports, β = 2.48, p < .05, compared to those with low burnout, β = -.76, p = .25. No associations were found between parent and teacher reports on the RBS-R.
Conclusions: Findings support study hypotheses suggesting maternal stress and teacher burnout may moderate the agreement between raters. Future research exploring issues such as parent-teacher communication, as well as agreement on additional early childhood measures is needed.