Depressive Symptoms in Siblings of Children with in African American and Caucasian Families

Poster Presentation
Friday, May 11, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)


Background: In school children, Kistner (2003) found that African American (AA) boys reported more depressive symptoms than Caucasian (C) boys, while AA and C girls reported comparable levels of depressive symptoms. Elevated rates of depression have been reported in the siblings of a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Gold, 1993; Lovell & Wetherell, 2016). Little attention has been given to the role that racial diversity may play in children and adolescents with a sibling with ASD self reporting depression or in their parents reporting symptoms of depression in their well children.

Objectives: This ongoing study investigates: (1) are there differences in the self-report of depressive symptoms between a neutrotypical ASD sib and parental reporting; (2) are there racial differences in reporting symptoms of depression; and (3) are there racial differences in parental reporting symptoms of depression in ASD sibs.

Methods: Participants were recruited from the SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs Autism Division. Criteria for inclusion were (1) C or AA families with at least one child with ASD 8 to 17 years, and (2) at least one sib not diagnosed with ASD. The Childhood Depression Inventory (self-report and parent report) were used to measure depressive symptoms (Kovacs 1991).

Results: The preliminary sample 11 C families, and 12 AA families. While not statically significant, AA sibs (33.3%) were 4x more likely than C sibs (7.7%) to report CDI scores ≥13. In fact AA sibs (17%) reported severe clinical symptoms (CDI ≥ 19) whereas C sibs did not. Female sibs reported higher clinically significant CDI scores than male sibs: C female: male ratio = 2:1; AA female: male ratio 3:1. AA mothers were four times more likely than C mothers to rate depression symptoms of ASD sibs in the clinical range. Both AA mothers and C mothers indicated their sons had more depressive symptoms than their daughters. An item analysis indicated AA sibs reported significantly fewer friendships (t(1, 21) =2.11, p=0.046) and fewer opportunities for fun than their C counterparts (t(1, 21)=2.57, p=0.018). AA mothers also reported ASD sibs had significantly fewer friends than C mothers reported (t(1, 22)=2.23, p=0.036). Finally, parents reported fewer symptoms of depression in ASD sibs than the children self-reported. The discordant rates for C families and AA families were 50% and 33% respectively.

Conclusions: Preliminary results indicate AA sibs reported more depressive symptoms than C sibs. The preliminary findings are inconsistent with previous studies of childhood depression. In this small study, both females regardless of race reported more depressive symptoms than males. Consistent with previous studies, parent and child ratings of depression were discordant. These results may change as participants are added to the study. Future research should address the social support needs of AA ASD sibs.