Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 46, Issue 7, pp 2399–2407 | Cite as

The Effect of Parenting Style on Social Smiling in Infants at High and Low Risk for ASD

  • Colleen M. HarkerEmail author
  • Lisa V. Ibañez
  • Thanh P. Nguyen
  • Daniel S. Messinger
  • Wendy L. Stone
Original Paper


This study examined how parenting style at 9 months predicts growth in infant social engagement (i.e., social smiling) between 9 and 18 months during a free-play interaction in infants at high (HR-infants) and low (LR-infants) familial risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Results indicated that across all infants, higher levels of maternal responsiveness were concurrently associated with higher levels of social smiling, while higher levels of maternal directiveness predicted slower growth in social smiling. When accounting for maternal directiveness, which was higher in mothers of HR-infants, HR-infants exhibited greater growth in social smiling than LR-infants. Overall, each parenting style appears to make a unique contribution to the development of social engagement in infants at high- and low-risk for ASD.


Autism High-risk infants Social smiling Maternal directiveness Maternal responsiveness Parent–child interactions 



Preliminary results were presented by the first author at the 2013 International Meeting for Autism Research in Atlanta, GA and the American Psychological Association’s 2013 Convention in Honolulu, HI. We would like to express our gratitude to the families who generously gave their time to participate in our study. We would also like to thank Catherine Caputo, Elizabeth Karp, Katrina Mares, Katherine Tanoto, and Salloni Nanda for their assistance in behavioral coding and data management.

Author Contribution

CH conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, performed the measurement, participated in the statistical analysis and interpretation of the data, and helped to draft the manuscript. LI performed the statistical analysis, participated in the interpretation of the data, and helped to draft the manuscript. TN participated in the coordination of the study and performed the measurement. WS conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, participated in the interpretation of the data, and helped to draft the manuscript. DM provided guidance about the manuscript draft and study design. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This research was supported by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Grants R01 HD057284 and U54 HD083091. This project was also supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UL1 TR000445. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colleen M. Harker
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lisa V. Ibañez
    • 1
  • Thanh P. Nguyen
    • 1
    • 3
  • Daniel S. Messinger
    • 2
  • Wendy L. Stone
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA
  3. 3.University of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA

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