Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 668–683 | Cite as

Predicting Child Behavior: A Comparative Analysis between Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

  • Elizabeth M. McRae
  • Laura StoppelbeinEmail author
  • Sarah E. O’Kelley
  • Paula Fite
  • Leilani Greening
Original Paper



Understanding factors that impact child adjustment is imperative. Parental adjustment, parenting behaviors, and environmental factors (e.g., child routines) have been linked to child behavior. In clinical child populations, these factors are particularly important given the increased demands the child’s disorder often places on caregivers. Furthermore, children in clinical populations often engage in increased levels of internalizing and externalizing behaviors both related to and in addition to the core symptoms of their disorder. Two such clinical child populations are Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).


The first goal of the present study was to elucidate parental and environmental factors that predicted child behavior in ADHD and ASD. Based on Sameroff’s Transactional Model of Development (2009), it was hypothesized that parental adjustment, parenting behaviors and child routines would collectively predict child behavior. A second goal was to examine differences in patterns of association between ADHD and ASD groups. Due to differences in the core symptoms of each disorder, it was hypothesized that the strength of associations would vary between groups.


Researchers examined the impact of parental adjustment, parenting behaviors, and child routines on internalizing and externalizing child behavior using parent-report measures (CBCL, CRQ, HSCL-25, APQ) of children ages 6 to 12.


Results indicated that for both groups, poor parental adjustment directly predicted externalizing child behavior and indirectly through harsh/disengaged parenting behavior. Fewer warm/supportive parenting behaviors predicted internalizing behavior, and more harsh/disengaged parenting predicted externalizing behavior. Higher levels of child routines predicted internalizing behavior for both groups but had a significantly stronger effect for children with ASD than ADHD.

Clinical Significance

Findings have important implications for interventions on several levels (e.g., parental adjustment, parenting behaviors, and environmental supports) in both the ADHD and ASD populations.


Autism ADHD Parenting Internalizing Externalizing Routines 


Author contributions

E.M. designed and executed the study, performed data analyses, and was involved in the writing of the paper. L.S. was also involved in the design, execution, data analyses, and writing of the paper. S.O. was involved in the design and writing of the paper. P.F. was involved in the design, data analyses, and writing of the paper. L.G. was involved in the design, execution, writing, and editing of the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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. Study procedures were approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth M. McRae
    • 1
  • Laura Stoppelbein
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sarah E. O’Kelley
    • 1
  • Paula Fite
    • 3
  • Leilani Greening
    • 2
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA
  2. 2.Glenwood Autism and Behavioral HealthBirminghamUSA
  3. 3.Dole Center for Human DevelopmentUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA

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