Stability of Temperament in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Developmental Delays, and Typical Development: A Brief Longitudinal Study
Objectives: To examine temperament changes in preschool children with ASD, developmental delays (DD), and TD, using parent report during two assessments.
Methods: We included children with ASD (n=37), DD (n=29), and TD (n=27). Children were administered the Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL), and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) at time 1. Parents completed the Carey Temperament Scales (CTS) at time1 and time 2. We compared parents rating of different temperament items on the CTS between time 1 and time 2.
Results: At time 1, children with ASD were rated as less distractible (F(2.00, 89.00)=27.039, p<0.001), and adaptable (F(2.00, 89.00)=9.073, p<0.001), as well as more emotionally negative (F(2.00, 89.00)=10.213, p<0.001) when compared to their TD and DD peers. Children with ASD were also perceived as more withdrawn (i.e., approach) and intense than their TD peers only, respectively (F(2.00, 89.00)=7.217, p=0.001; F(2.00, 89.00)=5.131, p<0.005). At time 2, the ASD group was rated differently on all dimensions, except intensity. Specifically, children with ASD were perceived as more active (F(2.00, 65.00)=12.791, p=0.001), less biologically rhythmic (F (2.00, 65.00)=7.889, p<0.001), more withdrawn (F(2.00, 65.00)=13.765, p<0.001), less adaptable (F(2.00, 65.00)=13.625, p=. 0.051), more emotionally negative (F(2.00, 65.00)=5.391, p<0.050), less persistent (F(2.00, 65.00)=8.591, p<0.001), and less distractible (F(2.00, 65.00)=11.424, p<0.001), than the TD and DD groups. They were also described as less reactive to their environment than their TD peers only (F(2.00, 65.00)=4.983, p=0.010). Additionally, the DD group was rated less active (F(2.00, 65.00)=12.791, p=0.001), adaptable (F(2.00, 65.00)=13.625, p=. 0.051), and reactive (F(2.00, 65.00)=4.983, p=0.010) than the TD group. Regarding temperament development overtime, parent ratings did not change between time 1 and time 2 in the TD group, but ratings varied substantially in the ASD or DD groups. Specifically, at time 1, results showed that in the ASD group only activity (r=. 60, p<. 001) and approach (r=. 53, p<. 001) were significantly associated to their corresponding dimensions at time 2. However, in the TD group, rhythmicity (r=. 51, p<. 050), approach (r=. 75, p<. 001), intensity (r=. 81, p<. 001), and mood (r=. 60, p<. 050) at time 1 were significantly associated to their corresponding dimensions at time 2. No associations were found in the DD group.
Conclusions: Overall, children with ASD were often viewed as having more temperamental difficulties than their typically developing peers, as well as their developmentally delayed peers. Unlike children with ASD, the TD group showed less cross-time variability in their temperament. These findings indicate that children with ASD and developmental delays might have a different developmental trajectory than children with typical development as it relates to temperament. Results of this study are also informative to clinicians and researchers and suggest the need to assess and provide interventions related to temperament problems in children with ASD.