Parenting Practices, Temperament, and Depressive Symptoms in School-Aged Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Friday, May 12, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
J. B. McCauley1, E. J. Adler2, K. Argente2, P. C. Mundy3 and M. Solomon4, (1)UC Davis MIND Institute, Sacramento, CA, (2)Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, University of California-Davis, Sacramento, CA, (3)University of California at Davis, Sacramento, CA, (4)Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, MIND Institute , Sacramento, CA
Background: Positive parenting practices are essential for successful child development, yet there are few studies of parenting children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The available evidence suggests that while there may be minimal differences in how parents of children with ASD and parents of children with typical development (TD) parent (Maljaars et al., 2014), harsh parenting practices used by parents of children with ASD relate to increased behavioral problems (Brenner & Fox, 1997). In TD youth, positive parenting practices can buffer a child at risk for developing depression because they moderate the association between temperaments characterized by negative emotionality and depression (Belsky & Pluess, 2009). Because children with ASD are at high risk for depression and negative affect (Simonoff et al., 2008; De Pauw et al., 2011), we tested whether parenting practices similarly interact with child temperament to buffer against child depressive symptoms in those with ASD.

Objectives:  We aim to (1) describe how parents of children with ASD rate their parenting practices compared to parents of TD children, and (2) examine whether parenting practices moderate the association between child temperament and depressive symptoms.

Methods: The current sample includes 37 children—19 with ASD, and 18 with TD—matched on verbal IQ and age (8-12). Parents reported their own parenting practices using the Child Rearing Practices questionnaire (CRPQ; Neppl et al., 2003), their child’s temperament using the Temperament in Middle Childhood Questionnaire (Simonds & Rothbart, 2005), and their child’s depressive symptoms using the Child Behavior Checklist (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2001). Using a composite variable comprised of positive reinforcement, inductive reasoning, and confidence scales from the CPRQ, we used multiple regressions to test the interaction effect of positive parenting and negative affect on depressive symptoms in the whole group and only within the ASD group. All analyses were performed using SPSS 23.

Results: There were minimal group differences on parenting practices as assessed by the CRPQ (Table 1), although parents of children with ASD reported higher frequency of managing behavioral problems and lower confidence when managing them. There also were few group differences in the moderator analysis. Negative affect was positively associated (b =.58, p<.001), and positive parenting was negatively associated (b = -.28, p<.05) with depressive symptoms in the combined groups. The interaction between negative affect and parenting practices was significant (b =.46, p<.001)—indicating that for children with low negative affect, positive parenting practices were associated with lower depressive symptoms. For children with high negative affect, positive parenting practices did not show the same protective association (Figure 1).

Conclusions: Parenting practices and their protective effect on child depression appear to be similar across both the ASD and TD groups. Positive practices related to lower ratings of child depressive symptoms—yet children with low negative affect appeared to benefit more. Given that positive parenting may be most useful for children after issues related to underlying negative affect have been addressed, clinicians should ensure that parents have the skills to successfully manage these issues while promoting positive parenting.