Parenting Adolescent Boys with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Versus Adolescent Boys with Disruptive Behaviour Disorder and Typically Developing Boys
Extant research suggests that parents of boys with disruptive behaviour adopt less adaptive parenting practices compared to parents of typically developing boys, which can constitute risk/maintaining factors in the development of problem behaviour. Disruptive behaviours are also common in children with ASD. However, no research has directly compared parenting between these groups, or explored differential relationships between parenting and disruptive behaviour severity.
We aimed to explore differential parenting between parents of boys with ASD, parents of boys with disruptive behaviour (DB) and parents of typically developing (TD) boys. Given that differential mechanisms are believed to promote disruptive behaviours, we hypothesised that parents of boys with ASD would resemble parents of TD boys in positive (involvement, positive parenting, supervision and monitoring), and negative (consistent discipline, physical punishment) parenting behaviours.
Parents of boys aged 11 - 16 with DB (N = 26) and matched TD boys (N = 29) completed measures as part of a larger study. Inclusion in the DB group required (1) significant conduct disorder symptoms based on parent/teacher report, and (2) attendance of a specialist educational setting. Data from parents of boys with ASD (N = 29) were drawn from a separate study. Both ASD and DB groups spanned a range of conduct disorder symptoms (ASD mean: 4.21, SD: 4.68; DB mean: 7.63, SD: 4.13). Data on parenting were collected using the Alabama Parenting Questionnaire (Frick, 1991).
No group differences were found for parental involvement and positive parenting (F(2,81) = .183, p >.3; F(2,81) = .744, p>.3, age included as a covariate). Robust group differences were reported for supervision and monitoring (F(2,81) = 22.81, p<.001). Post hoc-analysis indicated that parents of adolescent boys with ASD engaged in most supervision and monitoring (significantly more than parents of TD boys), and parents of boys with DB engaged in least (significantly less than TD boys). Group differences for inconsistent discipline and physical punishment reached nominal significance, but would not survive correction (F(2,81) = 3.715, p=.029; F(2,81) = 4.055, p =.021). Post-hoc analysis indicated that parents of boys with ASD reported less inconsistent discipline and physical punishment compared to parents of DB boys. Continuous analysis within groups indicated that the severity of conduct disorder symptoms was not related to parenting in ASD and TD boys. However, in boys with DB, there was a robust relationship between (lack of) monitoring and supervision and conduct disorder symptoms (partial correlation controlling for age: r = .702, p<.001).
We demonstrate differences in parenting behaviours between parents of TD boys, boys with ASD and boys with DB; and differential relationships between parenting and conduct disorder symptoms. Parents of boys with ASD engaged in more monitoring and supervision compared to TD parents, yet conduct disorder symptoms were significantly elevated. This suggests that a lack of monitoring and supervision is not a risk factor for conduct disorder symptoms in ASD. Longitudinal research using multiple informants is needed to explore the directionality of effects and overcome possible rater bias.