Skip to main content

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Predictors of Emotion Regulation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder


Difficulties regulating emotion have been linked to comorbid psychopathology in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but little empirical work has examined predictors of dysregulation in this population. Forty-six families of children with ASD participated in a laboratory visit that included direct measurement of children’s IQ, ASD symptoms, and psychophysiological reactivity. Child emotion regulation was observed during independent and co-regulatory tasks, and parental scaffolding was rated in the dyadic context. ASD symptom severity emerged as the strongest predictor of child emotion dysregulation across contexts. Child age and parental scaffolding also uniquely predicted child dysregulation in the dyadic task. Implications for conceptualizing intrinsic and extrinsic influences on emergent emotion regulation in children with ASD are discussed, as are applications to intervention.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


Download references


This project was supported by intramural funds awarded by the California State University, Fullerton and by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R15HD087877). Portions of these data were presented at the 2015 Gatlinburg Conference and the 2017 Convention of the American Psychological Association. We wish to thank the families who made this work possible. We also thank Audrey Rodriguez, Christopher Murakami, Mariann Howland, and Alyssa Bailey for their contributions to data collection and observational coding.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



RMF and JKB conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, performed statistical analyses and data interpretation, and drafted the manuscript; JM participated in the design and coordination of the study, performed aspects of the measurement, and contributed text to the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rachel M. Fenning.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

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

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Fenning, R.M., Baker, J.K. & Moffitt, J. Intrinsic and Extrinsic Predictors of Emotion Regulation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 48, 3858–3870 (2018).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Emotion regulation
  • Co-regulation
  • Autism symptomatology
  • Psychophysiology
  • Intellectual disability