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Brief Report: A Pilot Study of Parent–Child Biobehavioral Synchrony in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Abstract

The theory of biobehavioral synchrony proposes that the predictive power of parent–child attunement likely lies in the manner with which behaviors are aligned with relevant biological processes. Symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may challenge the formation of behavioral and physiological synchrony, but maintenance of such parent–child attunement could prove beneficial. The present study is the first to examine parent–child physiological synchrony in ASD. Parent and child electrodermal activity (EDA) was measured continuously during naturalistic free play. Parent–child EDA synchrony (positive covariation) was positively correlated with observed parent–child emotional attunement. Hierarchical linear modeling revealed that child ASD symptoms moderated the association between parent EDA and child EDA, such that EDA synchrony was stronger for children with lower ASD symptom levels.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    The models were also run using group-centered parent EDA rather than controlling for time. The findings were nearly identical in that the direction and significance of all effects were the same in both models and the magnitudes of effects were highly similar.

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Acknowledgments

This project was funded by an intramural faculty award given to the first author from the California State University, Fullerton.

Author contributions

JB and RF conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, performed certain statistical analyses, and drafted much of the manuscript; MH and BB participated in the design and interpretation of the data, performed certain statistical analyses, and drafted portions of the manuscript; MH and JM participated in the design and coordination of the study, performed aspects of the measurement, and contributed text to the manuscript; SE participated in the design and interpretation of the data and contributed to the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jason K. Baker.

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Baker, J.K., Fenning, R.M., Howland, M.A. et al. Brief Report: A Pilot Study of Parent–Child Biobehavioral Synchrony in Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 45, 4140–4146 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-015-2528-0

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Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Parent–child interaction
  • Synchrony
  • Electrodermal activity
  • Psychophysiology