International Meeting for Autism Research: Adolescent Social Competence: No Differences Between Mother and Father Ratings on the Social Responsiveness Scale

Adolescent Social Competence: No Differences Between Mother and Father Ratings on the Social Responsiveness Scale

Friday, May 13, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
2:00 PM
L. A. Smith, M. Murray and A. Pearl, Department of Psychiatry, Penn State Hershey, Hershey, PA
Background: Impairment in social interaction is one of the core deficits of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  This symptom is pervasive throughout the spectrum as well as throughout the lifetime.  It is particularly evident in adolescence as a great deal of emphasis is placed on social interaction and building relationships during the teenage years.  However, there is a dearth of instruments designed to measure social competence of adolescents with autism; the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS; 1) is one of few that can be used with individuals during these years. 

Objectives: To explore diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of the SRS using parental ratings and to compare differences between mother and father reports of social competence of adolescents with and without autism spectrum disorder.

Methods: Parents of 50 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 (mean age=14.74, SD=1.45) completed the SRS as part of a larger clinical trial examining the effectiveness of a social skills training program for individuals with ASD.  Twenty-nine adolescents had a confirmed diagnosis of high-functioning autism (mean IQ=106.21, SD=16.57) and 21 were typically developing adolescents.  Twenty subjects were male.  The SRS was completed independently by each parent prior to the social skills intervention.

Results: Mother ratings on the SRS were able to correctly distinguish, with 100% diagnostic sensitivity and specificity, between individuals with autism and typically developing adolescents.  Father ratings displayed 100% diagnostic sensitivity, classifying all those with ASD as in the autism range, and 95% diagnostic specificity with one typically developing individual falling within the autism range.  Inter-rater differences were also examined.  The standardized difference score was the method used to measure informant discrepancies (2). There were no significant differences between mother’s and father’s ratings on any of the subscales. Intraclass correlations (ICCs) between mothers and fathers for the SRS subscales and total score were high (ICC range = .80 – .93). The Communication subscale had the highest correlations suggesting that this variable is observed more consistently between mothers and fathers as compared to the other subscales, including the overall score. Although no significant differences were found between mother’s and father’s ratings, post hoc exploratory moderator analyses were conducted to determine if any variables predicted differences in ratings of behavior between informants. There were larger discrepancies between mother’s and father’s reports for children diagnosed with ASD than typically developing children.

Conclusions:  The SRS demonstrated strong diagnostic ability as well as high inter-rater reliability between parents.  These results suggest that the SRS is a valuable tool for researchers to screen for the presence or absence of an autism diagnosis and to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of an individual’s social skills deficits.  The high inter-rater reliability provides more confidence for the utility of this instrument and further supports obtaining a single parental rating.

1) Constantino, J.N. & Gruber, C.P. (2005) Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS). Western Psychological Services
2) De Los Reyes, A. & Kazdin, A.E. (2004). Measuring informant discrepancies in clinical child research. Psychological Assessment, 16(3), 330 – 334.

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