Family Characteristics Associated with Emotional and Behavioural Problems Displayed By Young Children with ASD

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 2, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
M. Palmer1, S. Webb1, J. Paris Perez1, T. Cawthorne1, A. Pickles2, V. Slonims3, E. Simonoff1, S. Scott1 and T. Charman4, (1)King’s College London, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, London, United Kingdom, (2)Biostatistics and Health Informatics, King’s College London, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, London, United Kingdom, (3)Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust (Evelina Children's Hospital), London, United Kingdom, (4)Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
Background: Significant associations between family characteristics and problematic emotions and behaviours have been identified in typically developing children. Proposed influential factors include parental mental health, parenting behaviour and socioeconomic circumstances (e.g., Finkenauer et al., 2005; Mazza et al., 2017). It is well established that children with ASD often meet criteria for additional psychiatric diagnoses (Salazar et al., 2015; Simonoff et al., 2008). Given the likelihood of co-morbid difficulties in the ASD population, it is important to identify risk and protective factors related to a child’s emotional and behavioural problems (EBP). Current literature in this area has focused on demographic factors (Chandler et al., 2016; Simonoff et al., 2013) and parental mental health (Simonoff et al., 2013; Yorke et al., 2018). Other work has found that parenting behaviours such as high levels of criticism and hostility account for a significant proportion of the variance in behavioural problems in children with ASD (Bader et al., 2015). More research using objective measures is needed to further understand these relationships.

Objectives: We aimed to investigate the association between family characteristics and EBP in children with ASD using a mixture of observational and self-reported data.

Methods: As part of the IAMHealth research programme, the sample consisted of 82 parents and their 4-8 year old child with ASD participating in the ASTAR trial. Objective measurement of parenting behaviour and child EBP was extracted from a novel observational assessment of parent-child interaction. Observed frequencies of child-centred parenting (e.g., positive comments, clear commands, praise), child-directive parenting (e.g., negative comments, physical handling), and child EBP (e.g., non-compliance, aggression, avoidance) are coded. Associations between observed child EBP and observed parenting behaviours, self-reported parenting practices (Parenting Scale-PS), parental wellbeing (SWEMWBS), parenting stress (Autism Parenting Stress Index-APSI) and family socioeconomic factors (parental education, parental employment and household income) were tested using correlational analyses. Multiple regression was carried out to examine the overall amount of variance explained and the strength of individual relationships.

Results: More child-centred and more child-directive parenting was significantly associated with greater child EBP (r=.369, p<.001 and r=.412, p<.001 respectively). No significant correlations were observed for self-reported measures of parenting practices, parental wellbeing and stress or any family socioeconomic factors. Observed parenting behaviours accounted for a modest yet significant amount of the variation in observed child EBP (R2=.188, p<.001), with only child-directive parenting making a unique contribution, accounting for 9% of the variance (p=.027).

Conclusions: Preliminary results suggest that child-directive parenting behaviours are associated with more EBP in young children with ASD, consistent with literature using samples of children without ASD. Given the cross-sectional nature of the data, we cannot make conclusions about the direction of effect and it is possible that children with more EBP elicit more parenting behaviours. In contrast to previous research which has tended to use parent-report measures of EBP, we did not find any associations between parental wellbeing or socioeconomic factors and observed child EBPs. These findings could be used to inform possible interventions for families with young children with ASD displaying EBP.