Parent Behavior Associated with the Development of Emotional Self Regulation for Children with Autism in a Diverse Sample
Objectives: To examine the association between behavior of young children diagnosed with autism and their parents’ behaviors as a function of race/ethnicity.
Methods: Participants were 37 children diagnosed with autism and a parent. Child age ranged between 30-48 months (M=40.86, SD=5.75). Participants were diverse: 32.4% identified as families of color; 19% of the children were female. Employing a cross sectional design, we observed parent-child dyads in their homes during naturalistic routines: free play, social communication (SC) assessment, and snack. Observations were video recorded for subsequent coding using combined event/time sampling procedures. Parent behaviors included physical engaging and helping, language-based engaging and helping, redirection/distraction, vocal comfort, physical comfort, language-based comfort, emotional following, and active ignoring. Children’s SC abilities were assessed using the Communication Symbolic Behavior Scales- Developmental Profile (Wetherby & Prizant, 2002)and their sensory processing (SP) abilities were assessed using the Sensory Processing Measure – Preschool Home form (Ecker & Parham, 2010). Parents completed a demographic questionnaire.
Results: Compared to children of color, White children scored higher on SC (t(35)=2.06, p<.05) and lower on the SP measure (t(35) =-2.62, p<.05) indicating overall fewer SC and SP challenges. Parents engaged in all of the behaviors associated with ESR development during the observations but to varying degrees (Laurent & Gorman, 2018). Parents of color used redirection/distraction significantly more often than White parents during the combined observation (t(35)=-2.547, p<.05) and the CSBS DP assessment condition (t(35)=-2.382, p<.05). Additionally, parents of color used language and helping behavior significantly less often than White parents during free play (t(35)=2.425, p<.05). However, after controlling for child SC ability, differences were no longer significant (Tables 1 & 2). No other differences were observed.
Conclusions: In this sample, children of color demonstrated more significant delays in SC and SP than the White children in our study. When the child SC delays were controlled for, differences in parenting behaviors were no longer significant. This suggests that parents engage in responsive parenting practices based on their child’s developmental level rather than factors related to race and ethnicity. No differences based on sex of the child were noted.Future research within culturally diverse populations is warranted to further understand racial/ethnic group differences that we observed in relation to both child characteristics and parent behavior. These findings have potential implications for informing parent coaching interventions aimed at supporting the development of child ESR.