Parent Discussions of Emotion Regulation Strategies with Their Child with ASD Is Associated with Parent Ratings of Child’s Emotion Regulation
Objectives: The focus was: 1) Are child characteristics associated with how parents speak with their children about emotions and emotion regulation, and 2) Do these associations differ between groups of parents of children with and without ASD?
Methods: Forty-one parent-child dyads participated in the study (21 children with ASD, 20 TD, Mage = 10, MIQ = 108). Parents completed the Multidimensional Social Competence Scale (MSCS; Yager & Iarocci, 2013). Through parent-report, the MSCS examines several domains of social competence, including the Emotion Regulation (ER) subscale that is used in the current study (e.g. “his/her emotional responses tend to be extreme”). Each parent-child dyad participated in a two-vignette discussion task where the main character was either anxious or angry. The dyads discussed the main character’s emotions and what emotion regulation strategies they thought would help the character. Conversations were coded for parent elaborations of emotions (e.g., helping the child better understand emotions) and scaffolding of emotion regulation strategies (e.g., helping the child to understand and generate emotion regulation strategies).
Results: Poisson family regression was used to examine the research questions. Predictor variables included diagnosis, age, IQ, child ER, and the interaction between diagnosis and child ER. The data from each discussion was examined separately (anxiety vs. anger) and there were two outcome variables for each discussion: elaboration and scaffolding.
When discussing anxiety, the omnibus test predicting parent elaboration was not significant (p = .84). When predicting parent scaffolding, however, the omnibus test was significant (p = .01) and there was a trending effect of diagnosis (p = .08) where parents of children with ASD used more scaffolding than parents of children without ASD.
Within the anger discussion task, the omnibus test predicting elaboration was significant (p < .01), as were all predictor variables (p <.05). Parents of children with ASD were likely to use more elaboration when their child was rated to have better ER compared to when their child had lower rated ER. Parents of children without ASD, however, were likely to use less elaboration when their child had better ER, compared to when their child had lower rated ER (Figure 1). The omnibus test when predicting scaffolding was not significant (p = .13).
Conclusions: The findings suggest that parent behaviour when discussing emotion is complex and may be associated with child characteristics such as child emotion regulation, specific emotions being discussed, and child diagnosis.