Emotion Dysregulation in Children with Autism: A Multimethod Investigation of the Role of Child and Parent Factors
Mills, Ann Shaw
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Children with autism have been found to experience greater difficulties with emotion regulation than typically developing peers. Characteristics related to autism (i.e., social communication, restricted repetitive behaviours, executive functioning difficulties, differences in physiological arousal) as well as external parent factors (i.e., parent stress, mindful parenting) have been suggested to contribute to the emotion dysregulation (ED) experienced by these youth. This study used a multimethod approach to evaluate associations between child and parent factors, and two indices of child ED (parent report and observational behaviour coding). The sample consisted of 44 children with autism ages 8-13. Correlational analysis revealed that child autism symptomology, executive functioning difficulties, parental stress and mindful parenting were all significantly associated with parent-report of ED, but not with observed ED. Similarly, hierarchical linear regressions revealed that these factors jointly predicted parent report of ED, but not observed ED. Interestingly, restricted interests/repetitive behaviours emerged as a unique positive predictor of parent reported ED, and a negative predictor of observed ED during a lab-based frustration task. Findings highlight the importance of using a multimethod approach and of considering contextual factors when investigating ER in children with autism.