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The Role of Racial Diversity: Examining Differences in Parent Report of Adaptive Behavior

Saturday, 4 May 2013: 12:15
Meeting Room 4-5 (Kursaal Centre)
B. Brooks1, K. A. Casagrande1, L. Herlihy2 and D. L. Robins1, (1)Department of Psychology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, (2)Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT

Cultural and racial socialization significantly impact an individual’s worldview and expectations for behavior. Several studies suggest that there is cultural variability in child-rearing practices; parents from different racial backgrounds may employ different strategies and place more significance on the development of certain skills, which might influence parent-report of child behavior.


This exploratory study investigated differences in parent-report of adaptive behavior in toddlers at risk for autism. Racial differences will be explored while controlling for socioeconomic status, as measured by level of maternal education.   


Parents completed the M-CHAT(-R) at a pediatric 18- or 24-month well-child visit. Children at risk based on the M-CHAT(-R)+Follow-up (M-CHAT(-R)/F) or whose parents and/or pediatrician expressed concerns about their development were invited to complete a diagnostic evaluation (N=137; Mage=26.61 months, SD=4.89). Evaluations consisted of measures of ASD symptomatology, general cognitive skills, and adaptive abilities.


There was a significant difference in maternal education levels between Caucasian (CA; N=77; M=15.88, SD=2.36) and African-American parents (AA; N=60; M=13.80, SD=2.56), t=4.95, p<.001. A series of 2x2 between-subjects ANOVAs examined race and diagnosis (NASD=75, Nnon-ASD=62), controlling for maternal education. Results indicated a significant main effect of race on the VABS Communication domain, F(1, 136)=4.97, p=.027, with African-American parents reporting lower communication skills than Caucasian parents (MAA=76.92, SD=12.10 < MCA=83.23, SD=13.25). There was also a significant main effect of diagnosis on Communication, F (1, 136)=21.85, p<.001, and Socialization standard scores, F(1,136)=11.81, p=.001, with parents of children diagnosed with ASD reporting lower communication (MASD=76.25 ,SD=13.50 < Mnon-ASD =85.56, SD=10.63) and socialization (MASD=81.60 ,SD=8.62 < Mnon-ASD =87.06, SD=10.96) skills.  No significant race x diagnosis interactions were observed.

To better understand the significant finding of higher reported communication skills by Caucasian parents, additional 2x2 ANOVAs examined the influence of expressive and receptive language. There was a main effect of race on receptive language, F(1,136)=5.20, p=.024 (MCA=12.45 SD=2.99 > MAA=10.98, SD=2.60), but not on expressive language, F(1,136)=1.49, p=.224.


Although the main effect of diagnosis on communication and socialization is to be expected, the more interesting findings lie in the main effect of race on communication skills. The difference in communication across racial categories was driven by receptive language, and not by expressive language skills. It is possible that this may be due to different cultural expectations in listening skills. It is important to investigate other factors which may contribute to differences in parent perception outside of race and SES, such as number of children or marital status.

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