Parent-child interactions (PCIs) are important to consider in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). PCI may be a mediator through which parent-delivered intervention acts to improve outcomes for young children with ASDs. Since core deficits of ASDs such as social communication are evident in parent-child interactions, PCI is a naturalistic setting in which to measure core symptoms of ASD. General developmental growth has been shown to be associated with parental responsiveness, a construct measured through observing and coding PCI, in children with developmental disabilities. Thus, PCI is a potentially important domain to investigate in families of young children with ASDs. More research is needed to better understand a wider variety of interaction styles and behaviors, and the relationship of PCI to child outcomes and response to intervention.
We aim to 1) examine the relationship between parent interaction style and child social behavior, 2) examine the relationship between child interaction behavior and standardized child assessments of cognitive ability, social communication and adaptive function, 3) examine the relationship between parent interaction style and family characteristics.
Participants include parents and toddlers12-24 months of age who demonstrated early signs of ASDs. Participants were part of a larger, multisite randomized trial of the Early Start Denver Model (Rogers, PI). Results will be presented for the pre-intervention assessment. PCI was coded from a five-minute parent-child play interaction using the Maternal Behavior Rating Scale and the Child Behavior Rating Scale (Mahoney, 1985). Parental interaction style subscales include Responsivity, Affect, Directiveness, and Achievement Orientation. Child interaction style subscales include Attention and Initiations. Reliability criteria included initially scoring individual items and subscales within one point on three consecutive tapes. Double-coding of 20% of the PCIs was conducted to ensure on-going reliability. Measures include the ADOS assessing child social behavior, Mullen Scales of Early Learning assessing child cognitive ability, and Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales assessing adaptive behavior. Family characteristics, income level, family status and maternal education, were obtained via questionnaire.
Results suggest higher parent responsiveness is significantly associated with higher child social communication including Attention and Initiations. Higher child Attention and Initiations are significantly associated with higher social behavior and higher cognitive ability, but not adaptive functioning. Family status, family income, and maternal education are not significantly related to parental interaction style.
The current study shows parental responsiveness is associated with social behavior in one year olds with ASD. Additional research is needed to understand the causal direction between increased parental responsiveness and increased child social behavior in the parent-child interaction. Parental interaction style is independent of family characteristics in this sample. Child social behavior is significantly associated with child developmental level and scores on diagnostic measures. This indicates PCI may be a useful measure in studies of parent-delivered intervention. Future research will include exploring the relationship between parent interaction style and parent stress and investigating change in parent interaction style as a potential mediator of child outcomes.
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