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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