International Meeting for Autism Research: Autism Risk Moderates Developmental Pathways Between Infant Referential Requesting and Toddler-Mother Interaction

Autism Risk Moderates Developmental Pathways Between Infant Referential Requesting and Toddler-Mother Interaction

Friday, May 13, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
1:00 PM
J. K. Baker1, C. J. Grantz2, D. S. Messinger2 and N. V. Ekas3, (1)Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, (2)University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, United States, (3)PO Box 248185, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, United States
Background: Early parent-child interaction has been linked to a host of later competencies in typically-developing children (e.g., NICHD ECCRN, 1999).  Certain social deficits in infants with emergent autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may impede the development of more complex interactions with the environment, but early intervention aimed at increasing social communication can potentially alter these trajectories (Dawson, 2008; Rogers & Dawson, 2010). Parent-child interaction may similarly foster engagement and promote competence. Recent evidence indicated that mothers’ sensitive structuring with their toddlers with emergent ASD promoted later language growth (Baker, Messinger, Lyons, & Grantz, 2010). The therapeutic potential of parent-child engagement begs the examination of possible contributors to the development of parent-child interaction in children at risk for ASD. Early referential communication has been a central focus of ASD research, and is thought to provide a foundation for more complex interpersonal interaction (Sigman & Ruskin, 1999).

Objectives: We examined the relations between ASD risk, referential requesting in the first year, and later parent-toddler interaction.

Methods: Autism risk was defined as having an older sibling with ASD (n = 45), and low-risk children had older siblings without ASD (n = 32). Referential requesting was measured with the Early Social Communication Scales (ESCS; Mundy et al., 2003) at 8 and 10 months, and parent-toddler interaction was measured during a free play at 15 and 18 months. Infant-initiated behavioral requesting (IBR) included eliciting help from a social partner regarding an object or event. Toddler behavior was measured with the NICHD ECCRN scales (1999) and included play engagement, affect toward mother, and prosocial behavior. Maternal sensitive structuring included behavior that engaged and structured the child in a sensitive manner (Baker, et al., 2010).

Results: None of the three factors differed significantly as a function of risk. Hierarchical regressions did not demonstrate main effects between IBR and later toddler-parent interaction, but ASD risk moderated relations between IBR and later child, β = -.45, p <.05; R2 = .08, and parent behavior, β = -.36, p < .05; R2 = .05. Associations were found between IBR and child and parent behavior for low-risk children (simple slopes: t = 2.70 and 3.02, ps < .01), but not for children with ASD risk (t = .03, p = .98, and -.10, p = .70). Child behavior mediated the relation between IBR and later parenting behavior in the low-risk children at the level of a trend, z = 1.88, p = .06.

Conclusions: Consistent with developmental theory, results suggest that certain social competencies in low-risk children during the first year may show continuity into the second year, contributing to the development of parent-child interaction. In contrast, infant communication was unrelated to parent-toddler interaction among children at risk for ASD, suggesting a potential break-down of a normative child-driven developmental process.  We are currently exploring the possibility that parent-toddler interaction may be more dependent upon parent factors for children with ASD-risk.

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