Informant Discrepancies in Parent and Sibling Self-Reported Emotional and Behavioral Adjustment Problems in Siblings of Individuals with ASD

Saturday, May 14, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
J. A. Rankin, L. K. Baker, S. W. Eldred and T. S. Tomeny, Psychology, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Background: The adjustment of typically-developing (TD) siblings of individuals with ASD is often of interest to researchers and clinicians (e.g., Hesse et al., 2013). Parents and siblings of individuals with developmental disabilities often differ in their reports of sibling adjustment, with parents tending to report more sibling adjustment problems (Guite et al., 2004). Little work considers whether these discrepancies exist specifically in ASD. ASD symptom severity, broader autism phenotype (B.A.P.) symptomatology, social support, and parenting stress have previously been evinced as predictors of sibling adjustment (Hesse et al., 2013; Meyer et al., 2011), but have not been explored in terms of the discrepancy between parent and sibling self-report. Further, consideration is lacking in how these discrepancies might affect parental functioning, although they may be related (Guite et al., 2004).  

Objectives: This study explored if discrepancies between parent and self-reported sibling adjustment problems existed, and if so, which factors predict these discrepancies. Finally, the relationship between discrepancy and parent psychopathology was examined.

Methods: 113 parents completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and Children’s Social Behavior Questionnaire (CSBQ) about the TD sibling (Mage = 13.33, 50% male), assessing emotional and behavioral functioning and B.A.P. symptoms, respectively; the CSBQ about the child with ASD, assessing ASD symptom severity; and the Symptom Checklist Revised - 10 (SCL-R 10) and Questionnaire on Resources and Stress (QRS-F) about themselves, measuring broad psychopathology and parenting stress, respectively. 113 TD siblings self-reported on the SDQ and the Child and Adolescent Social Support Scale (CASSS), measuring perceived social support.

Results: Paired sample t-tests revealed that siblings self-reported significantly more overall and externalizing adjustment problems compared to parent-report, (no significant differences in internalizing problems; see Table 1). Social support from parents, B.A.P. symptoms, and ASD symptoms and externalizing problems in the child with ASD negatively correlated with sibling-parent SDQ discrepancy (Table 2). Regression analysis revealed that social support from parents, β = -.36, p < .001, and B.A.P. severity, β = -.50, p < .001, were unique predictors of SDQ discrepancy. Additionally, in parents who report more sibling maladjustment than their child, greater discrepancy predicted broad parent psychopathology over and above ASD and externalizing symptoms in the child with ASD and parental stress ΔF(1, 56) = 12.48, p = .001, ΔR2 = .16. This effect was not significant in overall discrepancy (p = .17).  

Conclusions: On average, siblings self-reported more adjustment problems compared to parent-report, particularly in externalizing behaviors. This is surprising considering parents are thought to be better at rating externalizing behaviors than children, and alarming, as this scenario is often related to serious adjustment problems (Bein et al., 2015). Greater B.A.P symptomatology and support from parents predicted less discrepancy. Siblings who have higher B.A.P. symptomatology may report fewer adjustment issues, which closely resembles parent reports. Greater support from parents may result in a closer relationship where parents can better observe adjustment.  Finally, parents who report more adjustment problems than their TD child’s self-report may have more psychological adjustment problems themselves.