Parent and Teacher Perceptions of Emotional and Behavioral Problems in Children with ASD: Effects of Child Age and IQ

Friday, May 16, 2014
Atrium Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Atlanta)
N. S. Raff, S. S. Mire, A. N. Tagliarina, H. L. LeBlanc and H. Hyatt, Educational Psychology, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Background:   Youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequently experience comorbid emotional and behavioral problems, which may exacerbate ASD core symptoms.  The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) often is used to capture parent-report of emotional and behavioral problems in youth with ASD.  Yet such difficulties also manifest in school and impact programming/intervention decisions.  Fewer studies focus on teacher-report of these symptoms, though the Teacher Report Form (TRF), a companion instrument to the CBCL, is available.  Importantly, parent and teacher perceptions of problems may differ, including low (Internalizing scales) to moderate (Externalizing scales) CBCL-TRF agreement (Kanne et al., 2009). Effects of child age and IQ on parent-teacher reports of emotional and behavioral problems are equivocal.  For example, prevalence of parent-reported anxiety and depression may increase with age and IQ (Mayes et al., 2011; van Steensel et al., 2011), while age and/or IQ may have little relationship with parent-reported externalizing behaviors (i.e., aggression) (Farmer & Aman, 2011; Kaat & Lecavalier, 2013). However, teacher-report of aggression may be higher for younger children with lower IQ (McTiernan et. al., 2011). 

Objectives:  To investigate a) cross-setting prevalence of clinically significant emotional and behavioral problems of youths with ASD (parent-, teacher-report); b) relationships between parent- teacher ratings; c) child age-related differences in ratings, while controlling for IQ. 

Methods:   Data from the Simons Simplex Collection (SSC) were analyzed (N=2760; age range 4.0-17.9 years [M=9.03, SD=3.57]). CBCL and TRF Composite scores (Internalizing; Externalizing) and syndrome scales were examined from preschool (ages 1.5-5; N=323) and school age forms (ages 6-18; N=903).  Descriptive analyses characterized the type and prevalence of cross-setting emotional and behavioral problems; correlational analyses examined parent-teacher agreement.  Dependent-samples t-tests examined differences between parent- and teacher-ratings.  Forthcoming analysis includes one-way multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) to examine age-related CBCL-TRF differences while adjusting for IQ (covariate). 

Results:   Findings indicated more CBCL parent-ratings within the clinically-significant range (t≥64) for Internalizing (preschool: 36.0%, school-age: 38.4%) than Externalizing (preschool: 24.7%, school-age: 22.3%).  Correlational analyses revealed low-to-moderate positive relationships between parent-teacher (e.g., CBCL-TRF) Internalizing and Externalizing scores, with higher correlations for Externalizing (preschool: r(321)=.27, p<.01; school age: r(900)=.36, p<.01) than for Internalizing (preschool: r(321)=.22, p<.01; school age: r(901)=.27, p<.01).  Overall, CBCL-TRF syndrome scale correlations were higher for school-agers (range: r=.16 to r=.38) than for preschoolers(range: r=.07 to r=.33).  Dependent samples t-tests indicated significant differences between parent- and teacher-ratings for Externalizing, but not Internalizing, in both preschoolers [t(322)=-2.22, p<.05, r=.27] and school-agers [t(901)=-4.82, p<.001, r=.36]. 

Conclusions: Preliminary analyses indicate differences in symptom manifestation across age-groups (preschoolers, school age) and between settings (home and school).  We expect these findings to be further elucidated by exploring differences in CBCL-TRF scores by age-of-child (in years), adjusting for IQ scores (forthcoming MANCOVA).  Parent-teacher agreement was higher for Externalizing than Internalizing symptoms for both age groups, with teacher-reported Externalizing behaviors significantly higher than parent-reported. These initial findings suggest differences in setting-specific demands or in peer-group comparisons.  Both parent- and teacher-report of comorbid emotional and behavioral problems yield important information for supporting the cross-setting needs of youth with ASD.