Intrinsic and Extrinsic Predictors of Emotion Regulation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Difficulties regulating emotion have been linked to comorbid psychopathology in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but little empirical work has examined predictors of dysregulation in this population. Forty-six families of children with ASD participated in a laboratory visit that included direct measurement of children’s IQ, ASD symptoms, and psychophysiological reactivity. Child emotion regulation was observed during independent and co-regulatory tasks, and parental scaffolding was rated in the dyadic context. ASD symptom severity emerged as the strongest predictor of child emotion dysregulation across contexts. Child age and parental scaffolding also uniquely predicted child dysregulation in the dyadic task. Implications for conceptualizing intrinsic and extrinsic influences on emergent emotion regulation in children with ASD are discussed, as are applications to intervention.
KeywordsAutism spectrum disorder Emotion regulation Co-regulation Autism symptomatology Psychophysiology Intellectual disability
This project was supported by intramural funds awarded by the California State University, Fullerton and by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R15HD087877). Portions of these data were presented at the 2015 Gatlinburg Conference and the 2017 Convention of the American Psychological Association. We wish to thank the families who made this work possible. We also thank Audrey Rodriguez, Christopher Murakami, Mariann Howland, and Alyssa Bailey for their contributions to data collection and observational coding.
RMF and JKB conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, performed statistical analyses and data interpretation, and drafted the manuscript; JM participated in the design and coordination of the study, performed aspects of the measurement, and contributed text to the manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Affectiva. (2014). Affectiva Q user manual. Waltham, MA: Affectiva.Google Scholar
- Baker, J. K., Fenning, R. M., Crnic, K. A., Baker, B. L., & Blacher, J. (2007). Prediction of social skills in 6-year-old children with and without developmental delays: Contributions of early regulation and maternal scaffolding. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 112(5), 375–391.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Baker, J. K., Fenning, R. M., Erath, S. A., Baucom, B. R., Moffitt, J., & Howland, M. A. (2018). Sympathetic under-arousal and externalizing behavior problems in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 895–906. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-017-0332-3.
- Bal, E., Harden, E., Lamb, D., Van Hecke, A. V., Denver, J. W., & Porges, S. W. (2010). Emotion recognition in children with autism spectrum disorders: Relations to eye gaze and autonomic state. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40(3), 358–370. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-009-0884-3.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Beauchaine, T. P., Neuhaus, E., Gatzke-Kopp, L. M., Reid, M. J., Chipman, J., Brekke, A., Olliges, A., Shoemaker, S., & Webster-Stratton, C. (2015). Electrodermal responding predicts responses to, and may be altered by, preschool intervention for ADHD. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83(2), 293. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0038405.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Brereton, A. V., Tonge, B. J., & Einfeld, S. L. (2006). Psychopathology in children and adolescents with autism compared to young people with intellectual disability. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(7), 863–870. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-006-0125-y.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Cai, R. Y., Richdale, A. L., Dissanayake, C., & Uljarevic, M. (2018). Brief report: Inter-relationship between emotion regulation, intolerance of uncertainty, anxiety, and depression in youth with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 28(1), 316–325. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3318-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Dawson, M. E., Schell, A. M., & Filion, D. L. (2000). The electrodermal system. In J. T. Cacioppo, L. G. Tassinary & G. G. Berntson (Eds.), Handbook of psychophysiology (2nd edn., pp. 200–223). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Egloff, B., Schmukle, S. C., Burns, L. R., & Schwerdtfeger, A. (2006). Spontaneous emotion regulation during evaluated speaking tasks: Associations with negative affect, anxiety expression, memory, and physiological responding. Emotion, 6(3), 356. https://doi.org/10.1037/1528-3522.214.171.1246.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Fenning, R. M., Baker, J. K., Baucom, B. R., Erath, S. A., Howland, M. A., & Moffitt, J. (2017). Electrodermal variability and symptom severity in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(4), 1062–1072. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-016-3021-0.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Georgiades, S., Szatmari, P., Boyle, M., Hanna, S., Duku, E., Zwaigenbaum, L., Bryson, S., Fombonne, E., Volden, J., Mirenda, P., & Smith, I. (2013). Investigating phenotypic heterogeneity in children with autism spectrum disorder: A factor mixture modeling approach. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54(2), 206–215. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2012.02588.x.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Gerstein, E. D., Arbona, y, Crnic, A. P., Ryu, K. A., Baker, E., B. L., & Blacher, J. (2011). Developmental risk and young children’s regulatory strategies: Predicting behavior problems at age five. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 39(3), 351–364. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-010-9471-5.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Goldsmith, H. H., Reilly, J., Lemery, K. S., Longley, S., & Prescott, A. (2001). The laboratory temperament assessment battery: Middle childhood version. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin.Google Scholar
- Gross, J. J. (2008). Emotion regulation. In M. Lewis, J. M. Haviland-Jones & L. F. Barrett (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (3rd edn., pp. 497–513). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Gullone, E., Hughes, E. K., King, N. J., & Tonge, B. (2010). The normative development of emotion regulation strategy use in children and adolescents: A 2-year follow-up study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51(5), 567–574. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2009.02183.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Guy, L., Souders, M., Bradstreet, L., DeLussey, C., & Herrington, J. D. (2014). Brief report: Emotion regulation and respiratory sinus arrhythmia in autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(10), 2614–2620. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2124-8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- IBM. (2016). IBM SPSS Statistics for Macintosh, Version 24. Armonk, NY: IBM Corp.Google Scholar
- Jahromi, L. B., Meek, S. E., & Ober-Reynolds, S. (2012). Emotion regulation in the context of frustration in children with high functioning autism and their typical peers. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53(12), 1250–1258. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2012.02560.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Lord, C., Rutter, M., DiLavore, P., Risi, S., Gotham, K., & Bishop, S. (2012). Autism diagnostic observation schedule: ADOS-2. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services.Google Scholar
- Matthews, N. L., Pollard, E., Ober-Reynolds, S., Kirwan, J., Malligo, A., & Smith, C. J. (2015). Revisiting cognitive and adaptive functioning in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(1), 138–156. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2200-0.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Mazefsky, C. A., Borue, X., Day, T. N., & Minshew, N. J. (2014). Emotion regulation patterns in adolescents with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder: Comparison to typically developing adolescents and association with psychiatric symptoms. Autism Research, 7(3), 344–354. https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.1366.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Mazefsky, C. A., Herrington, J., Siegel, M., Scarpa, A., Maddox, B. B., Scahill, L., & White, S. W. (2013). The role of emotion regulation in autism spectrum disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 52(7), 679–688. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2013.05.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Mazefsky, C. A., & White, S. W. (2014). Emotion regulation: Concepts & practice in autism spectrum disorder. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 23(1). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2013.07.002.
- Neuhaus, E., Bernier, R., & Beauchaine, T. P. (2014). Brief report: Social skills, internalizing and externalizing symptoms, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia in autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(3), 730–737. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-013-1923-7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Patel, S., Day, T. N., Jones, N., & Mazefsky, C. A. (2017). Association between anger rumination and autism symptom severity, depression symptoms, aggression, and general dysregulation in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 21(2), 181–189. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361316633566.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Pellicano, E., Maybery, M., Durkin, K., & Maley, A. (2006). Multiple cognitive capabilities/deficits in children with an autism spectrum disorder: ‘Weak’ central coherence and its relationship to theory of mind and executive control. Development and Psychopathology, 18(1), 77–98. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579406060056.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Rieffe, C., De Bruine, M., De Rooij, M., & Stockmann, L. (2014). Approach and avoidant emotion regulation prevent depressive symptoms in children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, 39, 37–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2014.06.003.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Roid, G. H. (2003). Stanford-Binet Intelligence Sscales, Fifth Edition. Itasca, IL: Riverside Publishing.Google Scholar
- Samson, A. C., Hardan, A. Y., Lee, I. A., Phillips, J. M., & Gross, J. J. (2015). Maladaptive behavior in autism spectrum disorder: The role of emotion experience and emotion regulation. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(11), 3424–3432. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-015-2388-7.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Samson, A. C., Phillips, J. M., Parker, K. J., Shah, S., Gross, J. J., & Hardan, A. Y. (2014). Emotion dysregulation and the core features of autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44, 1766–1772. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-013-2022-5.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Samson, A. C., Wells, W. M., Phillips, J. M., Hardan, A. Y., & Gross, J. J. (2015). Emotion regulation in autism spectrum disorder: Evidence from parent interviews and children’s daily diaries. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56(8), 903–913. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12370.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Thompson, R. A. (1994). Emotion regulation: A theme in search of definition. Monographs of the society for research in child development, 59, 25–52. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-5834.1994.tb01276.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Thompson, R. A., & Meyer, S. (2007). Socialization of emotion regulation in the family. In J. J. Gross (Ed.), Handbook of emotion regulation (pp. 249–268). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Van Hecke, A. V., Lebow, J., Bal, E., Lamb, D., Harden, E., Kramer, A., Denver, J., Bazhenova, O., & Porges, S. W. (2009). Electroencephalogram and heart rate regulation to familiar and unfamiliar people in children with autism spectrum disorders. Child Development, 80(4), 1118–1133. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01320.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Vaughn, B. E., Kopp, C. B., & Krakow, J. B. (1984). The emergence and consolidation of self-control from eighteen to thirty months of age: Normative trends and individual differences. Child Development, 990–1004. https://doi.org/10.2307/1130151.
- White, S. W., Mazefsky, C. A., Dichter, G. S., Chiu, P. H., Richey, J. A., & Ollendick, T. H. (2014). Social-cognitive, physiological, and neural mechanisms underlying emotion regulation impairments: Understanding anxiety in autism spectrum disorder. International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, 39, 22–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2014.05.012.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Zelazo, P. D., & Cunningham, W. A. (2007). Executive function: Mechanisms underlying emotion regulation. In J. J. Gross (Ed.), Handbook of emotion regulation (pp. 135–158). New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar