Title page for ETD etd-10312012-190339

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Mahan, Sara
URN etd-10312012-190339
Title How core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder predict engagement in specific topographies of challenging behavior
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Psychology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Matson, Johnny L Committee Chair
Davis, Thompson Committee Member
Gouvier, William Committee Member
Page, Timothy F Committee Member
  • challenging behavior
  • problem behavior
  • self-injury
  • destructive behavior
  • stereotypies
  • autism
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • core symptoms autism
Date of Defense 2012-09-12
Availability unrestricted
Challenging behavior, such as aggression, destructive behavior, and self-injurious behavior (SIB), are common among people of all ages with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Numerous researchers have found that greater severity of ASD or a diagnosis of ASD is significantly correlated with greater levels of challenging behavior. However, there is dearth of information on how core symptoms of ASD (i.e., socialization deficits, communication deficits, stereotypies) predict the engagement of specific topographies of challenging behavior above and beyond other variables, such as developmental functioning. The purpose of this study is to extend the current literature base through examining how core symptoms of ASD predict engagement in Aggressive/Destructive and SIB above and beyond developmental functioning among toddlers at risk for developing ASD. Validated measures for this population were used: Baby and Infant Screen for Children with aUtIsm Traits (BISCUIT) - Part 1 and 3. First, it was demonstrated that greater scores on factors reflecting socialization deficits and engagement in stereotypies significantly predicted engagement in Aggressive/Destructive Behavior. Only stereotypies significantly predicted engagement in SIB. However, findings were small in effect with odds ratios ranging from 1.03 to 1.11. When examining how core symptoms of ASD predict engagement of challenging behavior at an item level, results were not interpretable due to suppression effects. These suppression effects indicate that the interrelationship among the predictor variables were such that relations between individual predictors and a dependent variable were either enhanced or suppressed. Thus the effect of each independent variable/covariate alone was not clear. Consequently, examination at an item level did not provide added benefit over examination at a group level. Implications of these results and directions for future research are discussed.
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