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Caregiver Psychological Distress Predicts Temperament and Social-Emotional Outcomes in Infants with Autism Traits

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the AICES Team

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1669-1681
Number of pages13
JournalResearch on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Volume49
Issue number12
DOIs
PublishedDec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This study formed part of LC’s PhD research, supported by scholarships from La Trobe University and the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), established and supported under the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres Program. The larger trial from which these data were available was funded by grants from the Telethon-Perth Children’s Hospital, Autism CRC, La Trobe University Understanding Disease Research Focus Area, and the Angela Wright Bennett Foundation. MU is supported by a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council (DE180100632) and AJOW is supported by an Investigator Grant from the National Health and Medical Council (#APP1173896). JG is a UK NIHR Senior Investigator, the views expressed are not necessarily those of the NIHR or the UK Department of Health. Publisher Copyright: © 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

King's Authors

  • the AICES Team

Abstract

Child temperament and caregiver psychological distress have been independently associated with social-emotional difficulties among individuals with autism. However, the interrelationship among these risk factors has rarely been investigated. We explored the reciprocal interplay between child temperament (surgency, negative affectivity, and self-regulation) and caregiver psychological distress in the development of child internalizing and externalizing symptoms, in a cohort of 103 infants showing early autism traits. Caregivers completed questionnaires when children were aged around 12-months (Time 1 [T1]), 18-months (Time 2 [T2]), and 24-months (Time 3 [T3]). Cross-lagged path models revealed a significant pathway from T1 caregiver psychological distress through lower T2 child self-regulation to subsequently greater T3 child internalizing symptoms. No such caregiver-driven pathway was evident through T2 child negative affectivity or in the prediction of T3 child externalizing symptoms. Further, no support was found for temperament-driven pathways through caregiver psychological distress to child social-emotional difficulties. Child surgency was mostly unrelated to caregiver psychological distress and social-emotional difficulties. These findings implicate the need to support the mental health of caregivers with an infant with autism traits in order to enhance the emotion regulation and social-emotional development of their infants.

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