Parent-child interaction, parental attachment styles and parental alexithymia levels of children with ASD

Res Dev Disabil. 2021 May;112:103922. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2021.103922. Epub 2021 Mar 6.


Aim: Given the recent findings regarding the increased evidence for the presence of the alexithymia in parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the construct of alexithymia in parents of children with ASD and its effect on adult romantic attachment style of parents, family functioning and parent-child relationship were investigated.

Methods: The sample included children diagnosed as having ASD, developmental delay (DD), and 27 typically developing children aged 1-5 years and their parents. The Crowell procedure, an observational and structured assessment was performed, and the quality of the parent-child relationship was assessed using the Parent-Infant Relationship-Global Assessment Scale (PIR-GAS) based on DC: 0-5. The Toronto Alexithymia Scale-20, Experiences in Close Relationships Revised, and the Family Assessment Device were administered to the parents.

Results: PIR-GAS scores were lower in the ASD group compared with the scores of the other groups. Family functioning rated by fathers of children with DD was lower than in the other groups. However, there was no significant difference between the groups in terms of alexithymia levels, and parent's own attachment styles in romantic relationships.

Conclusions: ASD was found to be an independent predictor for disordered relationship between children and their parents. Appropriate family interventions focusing on enhancing social interaction and emotional development may be beneficial in the treatment of ASD.

Keywords: Alexithymia; Autism spectrum disorder; Disordered relationship; Parent-child interaction; Romantic attachment.