Adaptive Behavior, Autism Symptom Severity, and Caregiver Depression in Families with Young Children with Autism
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Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) represent a heterogeneous population, with wide variability in adaptive behavior. Understanding sources of variability in adaptive behavior in children with ASD has important implications for early intervention. From a bioecological perspective, it may be critical for researchers and clinicians to examine the joint influence of child specific attributes and family characteristics in order to gain a better understanding of adaptive behavior development among children with ASD. Previous studies examining the association between adaptive behavior and autism symptom severity have yielded inconsistent results, emphasizing the need for additional research. Additionally, the link between caregiver depression and adaptive behavior warrants investigation given initial evidence that familial depression negatively influences adaptive behavior in children with ASD. The present study extended previous research efforts by examining the relations among adaptive behavior (communication, socialization, and daily living skills), autism symptom severity, and caregiver depression in families with young children with ASD. Families were recruited through early intervention and early childhood special education/preschool programs. Data were collected from 60 primary caregivers of young children through the use of extensive in-home interviews and child assessments. Adaptive behavior, autism symptom severity, and caregiver depression were measured using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Childhood Autism Rating Scale, and Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, respectively. Findings suggest that after controlling for child age, autism symptom severity accounted for significant variance in adaptive behavior skills, with socialization being most impacted. Furthermore, adaptive behavior profiles differed across autism symptom severity levels. While more than half of the caregivers reported heightened depressive symptoms, caregiver depression was not statistically related to adaptive behavior. Limitations, directions for future research, and implications for practice are discussed.