Consistency between Parent-Report and Direct Measure of Toddler Temperament

Poster Presentation
Friday, May 11, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
K. Villarreal1, S. Macari1, H. Neiderman1, F. E. Kane-Grade2, M. Wilkinson1, A. Zakin1, D. Macris1, L. DiNicola3, P. Heymann1, A. Milgramm4, E. Hilton1 and K. Chawarska1, (1)Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, (2)Boston Children's Hospital Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience, Boston, MA, (3)Yale Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, (4)Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, Albany, NY
Background: According to parent report, toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) show increased negative emotionality and diminished positively-valenced temperamental features (Clifford et al. 2012; Macari et al. 2017) compared to toddlers with typical development (TD). Complementary to parent report are direct measures of temperament such as the Laboratory Temperament Assessment Battery (Lab-TAB; Goldsmith & Rothbart, 1999), designed to induce emotions through challenges that imitate everyday situations. However, only modest associations have been found between parent report and observational measures in preschoolers (Gagne et al., 2011) and infants (Planalp et al., 2017). Despite the importance of temperament for understanding heterogeneity of syndrome expression in ASD (Macari et al, 2017), little is known about the agreement between laboratory-observed emotional reactions and parent report in toddlers with ASD.

Objectives: To investigate the relationships between intensity of positively- and negatively-valenced emotions elicited during the Lab-TAB and parent reported temperament on related scales of the Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire (ECBQ; Putnam, Gartstein, & Rothbart, 2006).

Methods: Participants included 74 toddlers, 39 with ASD (Mage=21.9 months) and 35 with TD (Mage=20.8 months). All toddlers completed the LabTAB consisting of nine behavioral tasks designed to elicit three emotions: frustration, joy and fear. Behavioral ratings of peak fear, anger and joy reactions were coded offline by blind raters using indices of facial, bodily, and vocal emotion expression. ECBQ was used to quantify parental perception of child temperament. Correlation analysis was used to evaluate the relationship between Lab-TAB Frustration and ECBQ Anger; between Lab-TAB Joy and ECBQ Positive Anticipation; and between Lab-TAB Fear and ECBQ Fear separately in the ASD and TD groups. Fisher r-to-z transformations were used to test the significance of the difference between correlations.

Results: The ASD group showed a moderately strong positive correlation for all domains (anger r=.415, fear r=.414, joy r=.334, all p-values= < .05); the TD group showed moderate to high correlations for fear and joy (r=.697 and r =.368 respectively, p-values= <.05) but not for anger (r= .212 p=.221). In terms of differences between diagnostic groups in the magnitude of ECBQ/Lab-TAB correlations, no significant difference was observed for anger or joy (p>.05), but for fear, the correlation was marginally higher in the TD group than in the ASD group (p =.076).

Conclusions: Both the ASD and TD groups showed moderate associations between parent-reported and observed intensity of joy, however, regarding anger, only the ASD group displayed a significant relationship. Concerning fearful emotion, both groups exhibited significant intercorrelations, but parent ratings in the TD group were more consistent with real-world behaviors as compared to those of the ASD group. This finding suggests that parents of toddlers with ASD may have difficulty gauging the intensity of their toddler’s apprehension, which could be related to ambiguity in emotional expression often exhibited in those with ASD (Kane-Grande et al., 2017; Abstract #2 of the panel). A mismatch between what the parent observes and what the child feels may hamper social exchanges within the dyad. Thus, the findings may have important clinical implications in social communication interventions.