Theses Doctoral

Parent-Child Interactions: Alignment of Measures Across Behavioral and Developmental Perspectives and Application to Intervention

Heiman, Carli Marisa

Behavior analysis, and more specifically the study of verbal behavior, has been used to empirically measure how parents and children interact for decades using single-subject research methods. Developmental psychology utilizes similar measures to describe these interactions across large samples of dyads, but findings across these two fields are rarely integrated due to differences in terminology and application. In order to integrate the literature of these fields, we must identify measures which can describe behavior of a large sample while still being sensitive enough to individual change from behavioral intervention. In particular, these measures must include the function of behavior, or the effect behavior has on the environment, in order to truly capture the strength of the interaction. In two studies, I seek to align measures of parent-child verbal interactions across both perspectives and describe how a variety of contextual, parent, and child characteristics affect parent-child interactions for families of children with autism.

In Study 1, I apply a coding paradigm which utilizes aligned measures of parent and child verbal behavior across behavioral and developmental perspectives to remotely recorded video sessions across structured and free-play contexts. I further identify how verbal behavior changes as a function of the level of the child’s verbal development and parent characteristics. I found that parent verbal behavior is not sensitive to the verbal behavior development of their child, nor is it sensitive to the context of the interaction. However, parent behavior was associated with their report of how severe they perceived their child’s maladaptive behavior to be. Furthermore, parent report of their child’s maladaptive behavior was not associated with rates of maladaptive behavior observed in the sessions, but it was positively correlated with measures of child verbal development such that parents of children who demonstrated more complex verbal behavior reported them as exhibiting more maladaptive behavior.

In Study 2, I report the effects of a parent training intervention in which I taught parents to accurately identify and consequate their child’s behavior in order to teach their child a new skill. All parents implemented the strategies with fidelity and reported positive changes in their interactions with their child in the home. However, parents did not independently generalize these skills to novel objectives or demonstrate changes to their verbal behavior in new contexts. All children learned these new academic skills, generalized them to the classroom setting, and maintained the skills 2 weeks following intervention. Results are discussed in terms of how functional measures and methods should be utilized across fields to bridge the gap between research and practice for families of children with autism.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Behavior Analysis
Thesis Advisors
Fienup, Daniel
Dudek, Jessica
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 20, 2022