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Parent child reminiscing and developmental outcomes for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Conversations between parents and their children about past events (known as reminiscing) have been shown to promote child language development, socioemotional/behavioural functioning, and self-esteem (Farrant & Reese, 2000; Koh & Wang, 2021; Reese et al., 2007; Swetlitz et al., 2021). These developmental outcomes are often compromised for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), yet only two published studies have examined parent-child reminiscing for children with autism (Faust, 2009; McDonnell et al., 2021). The aim of the current study was to examine differences in parent-child reminiscing for children with autism, compared with typically developing children, and the relationship with child self-esteem, socioemotional and behavioural functioning. Participants were 164 children and their mothers (78 children with autism and a matched sample of 86 typically developing children) enrolled in the Growing Up in New Zealand study. The sample was matched based on gender and age, with no statistically significant differences in further sociodemographic variables found. Parents completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) as a measure of children’s socioemotional and behavioural functioning (Goodman, 1997). Children completed the global self-worth scale (GSW) in the Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC) as a measure of self-esteem (Harter, 1982). Parents and their children were also asked to engage in a reminiscing task. They were able to pick one of three events to discuss together, either: (1) a recent time their child had a disagreement with another child, (2) a time that their child didn’t do as well as they wanted to e.g., in a test or a sports game, or (3) a time that they hurt themselves a little bit e.g., from falling off their bike. Interviews were transcribed and coded for parental elaboration and resolution quality (for parent and child). Transcripts were also analysed via Linguistic Enquiry Word Count (LIWC) to record emotion and internal state and pronoun word counts. The current study found that after controlling for child language parents of children with autism were less elaborative compared to parents of typically developing children, which is consistent with prior research (Faust, 2009: McDonnell et al., 2021). Dyads where the child was typically developing were also higher in emotion resolution quality compared to dyads where the child had autism. Our analyses found no significant differences for emotion, internal state word or pronoun use for children with autism compared with typically developing children. Overall, it appeared that child developmental status did not moderate any relationship between reminiscing and child self-esteem, internalising or externalising symptoms, or prosocial behaviour. However, parents of children with autism were moderately more likely to be elaborative when reminiscing if they rated their child as less prosocial. The current study has extended a small body of evidence suggesting that there are differences in parent-child reminiscing conversations for children with autism, compared to typically developing children. Future research is needed into this area to further examine these differences in depth, and potential associations with a range of child developmental outcomes across time.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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