Social Motivation By Self- and Parent-Report: Reporter Correspondence and Social Correlates

Poster Presentation
Friday, May 3, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
E. Neuhaus1, R. Bernier2 and S. J. Webb2, (1)Seattle Children's Hospital, Seattle, WA, (2)Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Background: According to several theoretical models, deficits in social motivation underlie the core social deficits observed in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), supported by evidence from behavioral, neuroimaging, and physiological studies. However, social motivation is rarely investigated as a multi-dimensional construct that can vary across social contexts. Also absent from most research of social motivation are subjective reports from individuals with ASD, despite the unique insight they may provide.

Objectives: To investigate social motivation in children with and without ASD, with attention to social context and reporter. Specifically, we examine (1) concordance between self- and parent-report of social motivation; (2) group differences in social motivation by reporter and social context; and (3) associations between social motivation and other social outcomes by reporter and social context.

Methods: A total of 56 verbally fluent children (20 ASD, 36 non-ASD) from 8 to 13 years of age (mean = 10.2 years, SD=1.4, range=8.0-12.9) and their parents completed the self-report and parent-report versions of the Dimensions of Mastery Questionnaire (DMQ), respectively. The DMQ yielded two indices of social motivation – Social Persistence with Adults, and Social Persistence with Children – which reflect a child’s typical effort toward and enjoyment of social interactions and relationships with adults and same-age peers, respectively. Social skills were assessed via parent-report using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, 2nd Edition (Vineland-2) Socialization standard score and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) Social Problems T-score. All children with ASD met clinical cut-offs on ADOS-2, ADI-R, and DSM-5 criteria.

Results: Concordance between children’s self-report and that of their parents varied by social context. WIthin each group, motivation with adults was significantly correlated across reporters (ASD: r=.53, p=.03; non-ASD: r=.55, p=.001) but motivation with peers was not (ASD: r=.03, p=.9; non-ASD: r=.32, p=.06). Group comparisons indicated that parents rated children with ASD as lower than non-ASD children in motivation with both adults (t=2.77, p=.008) and with peers (t=4.33, p<.001), whereas children’s self-report indicated lower motivation in the ASD group with peers (t=3.07, p=.003) but not adults (t=1.5, p=.14). Finally, within the ASD group, self-reported motivation with peers was negatively correlated with Social Problems on the CBCL (r=-.68, p=.002), and motivation with peers (r=.49, p=.04) and adults (r=.54, p=.02) was positively correlated with social skills on the Vineland-2, whereas parent-reported social motivation was not significantly correlated with either measure (rs<.025, ps>.29). Within the non-ASD group, neither children’s self-report ratings nor parents’ ratings of social motivation were significantly correlated with social skills on the CBCL or Vineland-2, likely due to restricted range on these measures for children without ASD.

Conclusions: Although children with ASD do report decreased social motivation relative to peers, social motivation may not be a unitary construct and may instead vary across social contexts and reporters. While parents’ and children’s reports provide some overlapping information regarding social motivation, children with ASD provide an under-appreciated perspective that carries unique statistical value in understanding their social skills and experiences. Results underscore the need for multi-context and multi-reporter assessment of complex processes such as social motivation.