AbstractChildren and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at high risk for experiencing additional emotional and behavioural problems (EBP). Their parents report high levels of psychological distress, including parenting stress (PS) and mental health problems (MHP). General population research supports a transactional relationship between child EBP and parent psychological distress, whereby both contribute to the development and maintenance of the other, in part via behavioural interaction and other environmentally mediated pathways.
In this project, I systematically reviewed evidence pertaining to the association between EBP in children with ASD and their parents’ psychological distress. This showed that most relevant existing research in families of children with ASD is cross-sectional and has relied on parent-report of both child EBP and own psychological distress, which may inflate observed associations due to shared method variance (SMV). Therefore, my subsequent empirical work investigated the associations among child EBP, parent psychological distress and parenting behaviour using multiple methods of measurement in a well-characterised sample of young people with ASD and their parents.
Firstly, I co-developed an observational measure of parent-child interaction (PCI) suitable for adolescents with ASD, who have a wide range of intellectual and functional ability. I then evaluated this measure for its reliability, explored its factor structure and assessed its convergent and discriminant validity. I then explored concurrent relationships among parent- and teacher-report of child EBP, parent self-reported PS and MHP, and parenting factors measured via parent self-report, the PCI observation and parent speech samples. I found evidence for association among certain domains of child EBP, parent psychological distress and parenting factors that could not be explained by SMV.
Analysis of longitudinal associations between parent MHP and child EBP reported by both parents and teachers showed that earlier parent MHP predicted later child conduct problems reported by both parents and teachers, and earlier teacher-report child emotional problems predicted later parent MHP. However, no predictive relationships were observed between parent MHP and child ADHD symptoms. Overall, findings suggest that although associations seen in existing research on families of children with ASD may be inflated by SMV, certain genuine associations are also evident. However, these may be restricted to certain domains of child EBP, parent psychological distress and parenting behaviour.
|Date of Award||1 Nov 2019|
|Supervisor||Emily Simonoff (Supervisor) & Tony Charman (Supervisor)|