The Impact of Socioeconomic Status and Parental Education on I-E Behaviors and Coping Skills in Children with ASD

Thursday, May 11, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
G. Haidar1 and R. Bernier2, (1)University of Washington, Seattle, WA, (2)University of Washington Autism Center, Seattle, WA

The presence of internalizing and externalizing (I-E) behaviors has been shown to negatively affect developmental trajectories in children (Slopen et al., 2013). Coupled with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the presence of I-E behaviors in children may further complicate developmental milestones (Woodman et al., 2016). It has been reported that coping strategies and coping competence play a moderating role on I-E behaviors in neurotypical children (O’Leary-Barrett et al., 2013), suggesting coping may be an important intervention target. However, the relationship between coping skills and I-E behaviors in children with ASD remains largely unexplored.


To explore the relationship between coping skills and I-E behavior presentation in children with ASD, while considering the moderating role of SES and parental education.


Participants included 2,751 children (2,384 males, 375 females) aged 4 to 17 years, 11 months (M= 9.03, SD= 3.56) from the Simons Simplex Collection with data regarding coping skills and I-E behaviors. The coping scores from the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales -2nd Edition (Sparrow et al., 2005) were used as a measure of coping ability and Internalizing and Externalizing behaviors were captured with the Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms T scores, respectively, from the Child Behavior Checklist (1.5-5 years and 6-18 years collapsed; Achenbach et al., 2001). SES and parental education were extracted from the demographic information for each family. Regression analyses were computed to assess the relationship between the child’s coping skills and severity of I-E behaviors, with SES and parental education as potential moderating variables.


Similar to what is reported in the neurotypical literature, coping skills were negatively correlated with externalizing (r= -.306, p= <.01) and internalizing (r= -.052, p= <.01) behaviors in this large sample of individuals with ASD. SES was positively correlated with coping skills (r= .079, p= <.01), although parental education was not. SES was negatively correlated with I-E behaviors (internalizing r= -.095, p= <.01; externalizing r= -.129, p= <.01) and parental education was as well (maternal-internalizing r= -.064, p= <.01; maternal-externalizing r= -.085, p= <.01; paternal-internalizing r= -.056, p= <.01; paternal-externalizing r= -.059, p= <.01). When SES and parental education were entered into the regression equation, the significant relationship between coping and I-E behaviors both remained (internalizing r= -.052, p= .02; externalizing r= -.304, p= <.01), with SES playing a significant moderating role between coping skills and behavior (internalizing r= -.094, p= <.01; externalizing r= -.127, p= <.01). Parental education did not have a significant moderating influence.


The observed relationship between coping skills and I-E behaviors in children with ASD, mirrors findings reported in neurotypical children. However, we found that SES plays a moderating role, such that at higher SES levels, the relationship between coping skills and I-E behaviors is stronger. Importantly, this observed relationship highlights the development of coping skills as a key target area of behavioral intervention that may benefit children with ASD and highlights that consideration of SES for interventions focusing on coping skills is essential.