Mother-Child Interaction of High-Risk Siblings throughout the First Three Years of Life

Oral Presentation
Saturday, May 12, 2018: 11:20 AM
Willem Burger Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
E. Demurie1, E. Bruyneel2, J. Vermeirsch1, C. Bontinck2, P. Warreyn1 and H. Roeyers1, (1)Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, (2)Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium
Background: In families with a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), parent-child interactions (PCI) can be more challenging compared to families with only typically developing children. Within the transactional model of development this difference is explained by bidirectional influences of both interaction partners during PCI: parents might try to compensate for their child’s social-communicative difficulties by using more directive interaction strategies. Given that siblings of children with ASD have a higher risk of developing (characteristics of) ASD themselves, PCI research has also focused on those high-risk (HR) siblings. These studies have shown that HR siblings are less lively during PCI and that the ASD-specific (directive) parental interaction style seems to be (at least partly) generalized to the younger siblings. Given the positive association of PCI characteristics with later development, it is important to investigate developmental pathways of PCI characteristics and its possible impact on the development of HR siblings.

Objectives: The current study observed PCI in HR and low-risk (LR) siblings at five time points throughout the first three years of life. Maternal, infant and dyadic PCI characteristics were compared between groups and the link with later cognitive and social-communicative functioning was explored.

Methods: Unstructured play interactions of 76 mother-infant dyads (38 HR, 38 LR) were observed at 5, 10, 14, 24 and 36 months and coded with the Coding Interactive Behavior scheme (Feldman, 1998). Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL) and ADOS-2 were administered at 10 (only MSEL), 14, 24 and 36 months.

Results: HR dyads were rated lower for dyadic reciprocity at 10 months, maternal limit setting and dyadic reciprocity at 24 months and infant involvement at 36 months.
Within the whole sample, the predictive value of PCI characteristics at 5 and 14 months for later social-communicative, cognitive and PCI characteristics was rather limited.
At 10 months PCI characteristics were predictive of ADOS scores at 14 and 24 months, MSEL subscale scores at 14 and 36 months, and PCI characteristics at 24 and 36 months. Finally, at 24 months infant negative emotionality during PCI was predictive of higher ADOS scores and lower MSEL scores at 36 months; and infant involvement was predictive of higher MSEL language scores at 36 months.
On the other hand, higher ADOS scores at 14 months predicted less maternal limit setting and infant involvement at 24 months and less infant involvement at 36 months. ADOS scores at 24 months predicted all PCI characteristics at 36 months.

Conclusions: Throughout the first three years of life PCI of HR siblings is characterized by lower levels of dyadic reciprocity, and a lower level of infant involvement at the age of three. Predictive value of PCI characteristics for later functioning is strongest at the ages of 10 and 24 months. On the other hand social-communicative functioning also predicts PCI characteristics at later ages. These bidirectional associations are in line with the transactional model of development. At the conference, the relationship between PCI characteristics and diagnostic outcome at 36 months and implications of the findings will be discussed.