Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) likely emerges from a complex interaction between pre-existing neurodevelopmental vulnerabilities and the environment. The interaction with parents forms a key aspect of an infant’s social environment, but few prospective studies of infants at elevated likelihood (EL) for ASD (who have an older sibling with ASD) have examined parent-child interactions in the first year of life. As part of a European multisite network, parent-child dyads of free play were observed at 5 months (62 EL infants, 47 infants at typical likelihood (TL)) and 10 months (101 EL siblings, 77 TL siblings). The newly-developed Parent-Infant/Toddler Coding of Interaction (PInTCI) scheme was used, focusing on global characteristics of infant and parent behaviors. Coders were blind to participant information. Linear mixed model analyses showed no significant group differences in infant or parent behaviors at 5 or 10 months of age (all ps≥0.09, d≤0.36), controlling for infant’s sex and age, and parental educational level. However, without adjustments, EL infants showed fewer and less clear initiations at 10 months than TL infants (p = 0.02, d = 0.44), but statistical significance was lost after controlling for parental education (p = 0.09, d = 0.36), which tended to be lower in the EL group. Consistent with previous literature focusing on parent-infant dyads, our findings suggest that differences between EL and TL dyads may only be subtle during the first year of life. We discuss possible explanations and implications for future developmental studies.
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