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Predictors of Parent-Child Interaction Style in Dyads Where Children Have Autism

Thursday, 2 May 2013: 14:00-18:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
K. Hudry1, C. R. Aldred2, S. Wigham3, J. Green2, K. Leadbitter2, K. Temple4, K. Barlow4, H. McConachie4 and T. PACT Consortium2, (1)Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, Melbourne, Australia, (2)University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom, (3)Newcastle University, Newcastle, United Kingdom, (4)Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Background:  Promising results from some recent parent-mediated intervention trials suggest that that the communication skills of young children with autism can be improved via parental adoption of responsive/synchronous interaction styles. Only limited research has yet, however, considered potential determinants of habitual parent-child interaction style, prior to the delivery of any intervention,

Objectives: The current study undertook to comprehensively examine the associations among various individual-difference factors and concurrent measures of dyadic interaction style.

Methods:  Within the large, well-characterized Preschool Autism Communication Trial cohort of dyads including children with core autism (see Green et al., 2010), baseline parent-child free-play interaction tapes have been rated using the novel Dyadic Communication Measure for Autism (DCMA). Coded for Parent Synchrony, Child Initiation, and Shared Attention are delineated and the current study examined associations among these interaction measures, along with measures of family demographic characteristics, scores from standardized child assessments, and other examiner-rating scales.

Results:  Various child factors (e.g., age, non-verbal and language ability levels, symptom presentation, etc.), but no parent or familial factors, presented significant association with the interaction measures. When entered as predictors, within individual regression analyses, child language age-equivalence carried unique significant predictive value for each of Parent Synchrony, Child Initiation and Shared Attention. Observed repetitive/stereotyped behaviour symptoms were also important predictors of Shared Attention. The three interaction measures were themselves moderately highly correlated, and carried substantive predictive value alongside child language ability and repetitive behaviour symptoms.

Conclusions:  Variability in parent-child interaction styles, in the context of childhood autism, appears to be driven by concurrent language level of the child, more so than child age, specific social-communication symptom presentation, or non-verbal developmental/cognitive level. Beyond this factor, only repetitive behaviour symptoms appear to provide additional unique predictive value for one the particular aspect of dyadic shared attention, and numerous other parent and familial factors appear relatively unimportant. Aspects of the interaction style may also, however, act in important ways to maintain the adopted style of a given dyad.

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