Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 49, Issue 12, pp 4891–4900 | Cite as

Maternal Affect During a Challenging Mother–Child Interaction: The Effects of Broad Autism Phenotype and Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia Reactivity in Mothers of Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Emma E. CondyEmail author
  • Reina S. Factor
  • Deanna M. Swain
  • Marlene V. Strege
  • Angela Scarpa
Original Paper


Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) is proposed to index cognitive and behavioral inflexibility. Broad autism phenotype (BAP) traits are prevalent in family members of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The study investigated whether RSA and BAP traits in mothers of typically developing (TD) children and mothers of children with ASD influence maternal affect. It was hypothesized that these factors would interact to influence mother–child interactions. Twenty-three mother–child dyads participated in a challenging interaction while measuring mother’s RSA. Results indicated that mothers of children with ASD show different RSA reactivity than mothers of TD children. Furthermore, preliminary analyses revealed RSA reactivity moderated the relationship between mothers’ rigidity and maternal affect during this interaction. Implications for future research and interventions are discussed.


Broad autism phenotype Respiratory sinus arrhythmia Mothers Autism spectrum disorder 


Author Contributions

RF & DS completed data collection procedures and supervised behavioral coding. EC, RF, DS, and MS were responsible for theory development and analysis of the data. EC, RF, DS, MS, & AS were responsible for the writing of the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

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

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyVirginia Polytechnic Institute & State UniversityBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Virginia Tech Center for Autism ResearchBlacksburgUSA

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