A Cross-Sectional Examination of the Internalization of Emotion Co-regulatory Support in Children with ASD

  • Jason K. BakerEmail author
  • Rachel M. Fenning
  • Jacquelyn Moffitt
Brief Report


Cross-sectional data from Fenning et al. (J Autism Dev Disord, 48:3858–3870, 2018) were used to examine age differences in processes related to the development of emotion regulation in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Forty-six children with ASD between the ages of 4 and 11 years and their primary caregivers participated in structured laboratory tasks from which parental scaffolding and child dysregulation were coded. Moderation analyses suggested increased internalization of parental co-regulatory support with age, as evidenced by more coherence in dysregulation across dyadic and independent contexts and a stronger inverse relation between parental scaffolding and independent dysregulation. Children’s estimated mental age did not account for these effects. Implications for understanding and promoting the development of emotion regulation in children with ASD are discussed.


Autism spectrum disorder Emotion regulation Parent–child interaction Co-regulation Cross-sectional 



This project was funded by an intramural grant from the California State University, Fullerton, as well as a Grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R15HD087877) awarded to the first two authors. Preliminary findings were presented at the 2017 Convention for the American Psychological Association.

Author Contributions

JB, RF, and JM conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, performed the measurement and drafted the manuscript. JB performed the statistical analysis. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of our institutional and the national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Aiken, L., & West, S. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, J. K., Fenning, R. M., & Crnic, K. A. (2011). Emotion socialization by mothers and fathers: Coherence among behaviors and associations with parent attitudes and children’s social functioning. Social Development, 20, 412–430. Scholar
  3. Baker, J. K., Fenning, R. M., Crnic, K. A., Baker, B. L., & Blacher, J. (2007). Prediction of social skills in 6-year-old children with and without developmental delays: Contributions of early regulation and maternal scaffolding. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 112(5), 375–391.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Baker, J. K., Fenning, R. M., Erath, S. A., Baucom, B. R., Moffitt, J. M., & Howland, M. A. (2018). Sympathetic under-arousal and externalizing behavior problems in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 46, 895–906. Scholar
  5. Brereton, A. V., Tonge, B. J., & Einfeld, S. L. (2006). Psychopathology in children and adolescents with autism compared to young people with intellectual disability. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(7), 863–870.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Calkins, S. D. (1994). Origins and outcomes of individual differences in emotion regulation. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59(2–3), 53–72.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Cole, P. M., Martin, S. E., & Dennis, T. A. (2004). Emotion regulation as a scientific construct: Methodological challenges and directions for child development research. Child Development, 75(2), 317–333.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Cole, P. M., Michel, M. K., & Teti, L. O. D. (1994). The development of emotion regulation and dysregulation: A clinical perspective. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59(2–3), 73–102.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Fenning, R. M., & Baker, J. K. (2012). Mother-child interaction and resilience in children with early developmental risk. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(3), 411–420. Scholar
  10. Fenning, R. M., Baker, J. K., & Moffitt, J. (2018). Intrinsic and extrinsic predictors of emotion regulation in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48, 3858–3870. Scholar
  11. Goldsmith, H. H., Reilly, J., Lemery, K. S., Longley, S., & Prescott, A. (2001). The laboratory temperament assessment battery: Middle childhood version. (Technical manual). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin.Google Scholar
  12. Gottman, J. M., Katz, L. F., & Hooven, C. (1996). Parental meta-emotion philosophy and the emotional life of families: Theoretical models and preliminary data. Journal of Family Psychology, 10, 243–268. Scholar
  13. Grolnick, W. S., & Farkas, M. (2002). Parenting and the development of children’s self-regulation. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting: Practical issues in parenting (pp. 89–110). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.Google Scholar
  14. Gulsrud, A. C., Jahromi, L. B., & Kasari, C. (2010). The co-regulation of emotions between mothers and their children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40(2), 227–237.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Hoffman, C., Crnic, K. A., & Baker, J. K. (2006). Maternal depression and parenting: Implications for children’s emergent emotion regulation and behavioral functioning. Parenting: Science and Practice, 6(4), 271–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jahromi, L. B., Meek, S. E., & Ober-Reynolds, S. (2012). Emotion regulation in the context of frustration in children with high functioning autism and their typical peers. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53(12), 1250–1258.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Kopp, C. B. (1982). Antecedents of self-regulation: a developmental perspective. Developmental Psychology, 18(2), 199–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kopp, C. B. (1989). Regulation of distress and negative emotions: A developmental view. Developmental Psychology, 25(3), 343–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lecavalier, L., Leone, S., & Wiltz, J. (2006). The impact of behaviour problems on caregiver stress in young people with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 50, 172–183. Scholar
  20. Lord, C., Rutter, M., DiLavore, P. C., Risi, S., Gotham, K., & Bishop, S. (2012). Autism diagnostic observation schedule: ADOS-2. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services.Google Scholar
  21. Mazefsky, C. A., Borue, X., Day, T. N., & Minshew, N. J. (2014). Emotion regulation patterns in adolescents with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder: Comparison to typically developing adolescents and association with psychiatric symptoms. Autism Research, 7(3), 344–354.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  22. Mazefsky, C. A., Herrington, J., Siegel, M., Scarpa, A., Maddox, B. B., Scahill, L., et al. (2013). The role of emotion regulation in autism spectrum disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 52(7), 679–688.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Mazefsky, C. A., & White, S. W. (2014). Emotion regulation: Concepts & practice in autism spectrum disorder. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 23(1), 15–24.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Morris, A. S., Silk, J. S., Steinberg, L., Myers, S. S., & Robinson, L. R. (2007). The role of the family context in the development of emotion regulation. Social Development, 16(2), 361–388.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Norona, A., & Baker, B. (2014). The transactional relationship between parenting and emotion regulation in children with or without developmental delays. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35, 3209–3219.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Pouw, L. B., Rieffe, C., Stockmann, L., & Gadow, K. D. (2013). The link between emotion regulation, social functioning, and depression in boys with ASD. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7(4), 549–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Roid, G. H. (2003). Stanford-Binet intelligence scales. Itasca, IL: Riverside Publishing.Google Scholar
  28. Roisman, G. I., Newman, D. A., Fraley, R. C., Haltigan, J. D., Groh, A. M., & Haydon, K. C. (2012). Distinguishing differential susceptibility from diathesis-stress: Recommendations for evaluating interaction effects. Development and Psychopathology, 24, 389–409. Scholar
  29. Samson, A. C., Hardan, A. Y., Podell, R. W., Phillips, J. M., & Gross, J. J. (2015). Emotion regulation in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Autism Research, 8(1), 9–18.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Ting, V., & Weiss, J. A. (2017). Emotion regulation and parent co-regulation in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(3), 680–689.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  31. Weiss, J. A. (2014). Transdiagnostic case conceptualization of emotional problems in youth with ASD: An emotion regulation approach. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 21(4), 331–350.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Child & Adolescent Studies & Center for AutismCalifornia State University, FullertonFullertonUSA

Personalised recommendations