Differences between Maternal and Paternal Report of Autism Symptom Severity

In a recent study, Matson, Hess, Kozlowski, and Neal identified differences between maternal and paternal report of symptom severity in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Clinicians often use assessments to assist in diagnosing ASD. Furthermore, many assessments depend on caregiver report and may be completed by either or both parents. The purpose of this study was to compare maternal and paternal ratings of ASD symptom severity in children with ASD and children with typical development.

Participants included 16 children with ASD and 23 children with typical development, ages 3 to 13 years. Parental report of ASD symptom severity was evaluated for each participant based on their mother’s and father’s individual ratings on the Autism Spectrum Disorder–Diagnostic for Children (ASD-DC).

For both the participants with ASD and the participants with typical development, mothers were found to report more ASD symptoms than fathers. While mothers’ and fathers’ ratings were similar for the participants with typical development, mothers reported significantly more ASD symptoms than fathers for the participants with ASD. Furthermore, parental agreement was stronger for items concerning more observable behaviors (e.g., socializes with others, participates in pretend play, and demonstrates aversion to change) and weaker for items concerning more abstract abilities (e.g., recognizes others’ emotions, and comprehends non-verbal cues).

Findings suggest that there are considerable differences between maternal and paternal report of symptom severity in children with ASD. This is important given that caregiver report is often used within ASD diagnosis and ASD research. Further evaluation of the differences between maternal and paternal report of ASD symptoms is warranted.

References

Matson, J. L., Hess, J. A., Kozlowski, A. M., & Neal, D. (2010). An examination of differences in symptom endorsements of autism spectrum disorders: A comparison between mothers and fathers. Developmental Neurorehabilitation. doi:10.3109/17518423.2010.519759

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