Autism Spectrum Disorder: Parent Attachment Representations and Emotional Availability in the Parent-Child Relationship

Ruby Yedloutschnig, Pace University


In the current study of 38 parents and their children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), parents' attachment histories were assessed using the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI; George, Kaplan, & Main, 1985) and emotional availability was assessed using the Emotional Availability (EA) scales (Biringen, Robinson, & Emde, 1998). The central questions of this study were whether security status of parents (assessed from AAI narratives) predicted parent EA, as gauged via observation, and whether more optimal parent EA was associated with more optimal child EA. It was found that each EA scale score was significantly higher for secure parents than for insecure parents. Although children's involvement of the parents was infrequent overall, parents with greater sensitivity were better able to read and respond to the signals of their children and their children were more responsive to them. Higher levels of children's social-emotional functioning and parents' supportive behaviors, assessed using the Functional Emotional Assessment Scale (FEAS; Greenspan, DeGangi, & Wieder, 2001), were expected to relate to more optimal parent and child EA. This hypothesis was supported, lending validity for use of the FEAS in samples of children with ASD over the age of 4. Exploratory analyses of AAI classification, children's symptom severity, and level of social-emotional functioning as potential moderators of parent-child EA, revealed no interaction effects. Children's symptom severity was not associated with parent or child EA. The significance of parents' internal resources and emotional availability in affective exchanges with their children with ASD, and the implications of these findings, are discussed.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Yedloutschnig, Ruby, "Autism Spectrum Disorder: Parent Attachment Representations and Emotional Availability in the Parent-Child Relationship" (2012). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3531141.



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