Correlates of Parent Responsiveness in the Interactions of Fathers and Mothers with Their Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Flippin, Michelle.
    • Affiliation: School of Medicine, Department of Allied Health Sciences, Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences
  • Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) demonstrate early and marked deficits in communication and play abilities. Research indicates that the responsiveness of mothers plays an integral role in supporting communication development for children with ASD. Furthermore, interventions focused on increasing maternal responsiveness have been shown to be effective in improving communicative outcomes for children with ASD (McConachie & Diggle, 2007). Less is known about the relationship between the responsiveness of fathers and the social-communicative abilities of their children with ASD. However, father responsiveness has been linked to improved outcomes for children who are typically developing. To date, parent research in autism has primarily involved mothers with the implication that results will generalize to fathers. The current study investigated similarities and differences in the interaction styles of mothers and fathers and the relationship between their respective styles and child language and play skills. Parental responsiveness has also been shown to impact play development for both typically developing children and children with developmental disabilities (Cielinski, Vaughn, Seifer, & Contreras, 1995; de Falco, Esposito, Venuti, & Bornstein, 2008). In contrast, the contribution of parent responsiveness to the play development of children with ASD has not been examined. Given the deficits in play characteristic of the disorder and the strong correlations between symbolic play and language development for children with ASD, understanding the relationship between parent responsiveness and child play skills will have important implications for developing effective play-based communication intervention. The current study investigated the relationship between parent responsiveness and child play skills. Successfully involving parents in interactions with their children with ASD may be complicated in some families by parental broad autism phenotype (BAP). Parents with the BAP show characteristics similar to those found in autism without the intensity to warrant a diagnosis of autism. Nonetheless, presence of BAP characteristics may influence the ability of parents to interact with and respond to the play and language skills of their children with ASD. The current study investigated the relationship between the BAP in parents and their language and play responsiveness when interacting with their children with ASD. Findings of this study revealed that overall, mothers used more responsive verbal behaviors than fathers. However, for both fathers and mothers, verbal responsiveness was strongly correlated with the language skills of their children with ASD. Children engaged in higher symbolic level play with their fathers and mothers than with an unfamiliar adult. Comparisons between mother-child and father-child play revealed that children engaged in significantly more relational play with their mothers; they also tended to engage in more symbolic play with their fathers, although this latter comparison was not significant. In contrast to responsive verbal behaviors, mothers and fathers used similar levels of responsive play behaviors in interactions with their children with ASD. For fathers, responsiveness in play was associated with higher-level symbolic play skills for their children with ASD. Finally, for mothers but not for fathers, parent verbal and play responsiveness was found to mediate the relationship between two characteristics of the parental BAP (i.e., aloofness, rigidity) and the language and play skills of children with ASD. Results of this study provide important evidence supporting the principle that both mothers and fathers contribute to the language and play skills of their children with autism. In addition, this study provided data consistent with a mediator model of maternal responsiveness between maternal BAP and the child language and play skills of children with ASD.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Speech and Hearing Sciences in the Department of Allied Health Sciences."
  • Watson, Linda R.
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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