Parent-Child Interaction and Peer Relationships in School-Age Children with ASD

Friday, May 12, 2017: 5:00 PM-6:30 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
A. Rodda1, A. Estes2, T. St. John2, J. Munson1 and S. Dager3, (1)University of Washington, Seattle, WA, (2)University of Washington Autism Center, Seattle, WA, (3)University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA
Background:  Peer competence and friendships are important achievements for school-age children. However, peer relationships and contributors to success in this domain among children with ASD are not well understood. Better language ability has been associated with better peer competence in children with ASD. Parent-child interaction patterns characterized by shared control are associated with increased peer competence and higher-quality friendships in children with typical development, but this has yet to be demonstrated in children with ASD.


Objectives:  1) Compare peer competence and friendships in school-aged children with ASD and TD. 2) Examine the relationship between communication ability and parent-child shared control in preschool to peer competence and friendships in school-age.


Methods:   This study included 26 children with ASD (20 male) assessed at preschool-age (M=4.3 years) and school-age (M=11.7 years) and 25 peers with TD assessed at school-age (18 male; M=10.45 years). School-age IQ ranged from 30-128 in the ASD group. Preschool parent-child interaction in the ASD group was microanalytically coded (Relationship Affect Coding System; Peterson et al., 2010) to quantify shared control during play. Higher values of Shared Control (ratio of parent questions + directives to child questions + directives) indicated more parental control. Preschool and school-age communication was measured with the Vineland. School-age peer competence (Social Skills Responsiveness Scale) and friendship quality (Friendship Qualities Scale, FQS; Bukowski et al., 1994) were measured via parent report.

Results:  Children with ASD had lower Peer Competence and Friendship Quality than children with TD (2-tailed t-tests, ps<.001). Almost 70% of children with ASD (18/26) and all children with TD had one or more friends. Two hierarchical multiple regression analyses were performed. For Peer Competence: Block 1, (NVIQ and age), was significant, R2=.33, p<.001. Block 2, (Group and school-age Communication), was significant, R2change=.30, p<.001. For Friendship Quality: Block 1, (NVIQ and age) was significant, R2=.11, p<.05. Block 2, (Group and school-age Communication) was significant, R2change=.25, p<.01. Shared Control correlated with Peer Competence, (r=-.44, p<.05), but not Friendship Quality. To examine the relationship between Shared Control and Peer Competence, a multiple linear regression was performed. Block 1, (preschool Communication) was at trend level, R2=.135, p=.08, f2=.26. Block 2, (Shared Control), was at trend level, R2change=.07, p=.08. This study is ongoing, and the final analyses will include four in-process subjects who have not yet completed the study.


Conclusions:  Many school-age children with ASD have at least one friend, indicating that children with a range of communication abilities and intellectual functioning can develop reciprocal friendships. However, most children with ASD and poorer communication had lower peer competence and friendship quality. A trend level association between shared parent-child control of interactions was detected, but future studies are needed to further elucidate the potential relations between parent-child interaction and later peer relationships. Better understanding of precursors to peer competence and friendships is needed to build evidence-based interventions for improving outcomes for school-aged children with ASD.