Differences in Caregiver and Child Factors Considering the Birth Order of Children with ASD

Primary Author: Sarah Boland

Faculty Sponsor: Tammy Barry


Primary College/Unit: Arts and Sciences

Category: Physical and Social Sciences

Campus: Pullman




Principal Topic: Though research has investigated the ways in which caregiver factors are associated with one another (Kuhn & Carter, 2006), there is limited research on how these factors differ across varied family structures. Given the heightened distress among parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the reliance of parent report in clinical evaluation, it is essential to understand how nuances in family structure may impact such reports.

Method: Participants were 155 caregivers with either (1) a “first-born” child with ASD and then typically-developing (TD) child(ren); (2) TD child(ren) and then a “not-first-born” child with ASD, or (3) an “only child” with ASD. Caregivers completed questionnaires assessing parental and child factors.

Results/Implications: Correlations among parent and child variables by birth order indicated many significant correlations across conditions; however, the correlation between efficacy and knowledge was only significant for the only-child group, r = -.243, p = .03. One-way ANOVAs indicated the three birth orders did not differ significantly on caregiver distress, family resources, ASD symptom severity, and child externalizing behaviors. However, some group differences emerged: not-first-born higher for satisfaction; first-born lower for efficacy; only-child lower for ASD knowledge and higher for child internalizing behaviors (overall) and perceived social support (compared to first-born). Results suggest having a TD child first may enhance feelings of readiness as a parent. Having multiple children may also increase parents’ actual knowledge of ASD. This finding, in combination with the only-child condition’s negative correlation between efficacy and knowledge, prompts the need for further research.Bottom of Form