Emotional availability in mother-child interaction: The case of children with autism spectrum disorders

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Objective. The goals of the study were to provide descriptive information regarding the Emotional Availability (EA) Scales in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and to examine the contribution of child functioning and diagnosis and maternal parenting stress and psychological distress to EA Scale scores. Design. 45 preschool-age boys with an ASD and their mothers were assessed using the EA Scales. Three play episodes were observed: free play, structured play, and social play. Results. Regarding the first goal, both relative stability in the rank ordering of dyads among episodes as well as differences among the episodes emerged: The free-play episode elicited the lowest scores on the EA Scales, the structured play episode elicited intermediate scores, and the social play episode elicited the highest scores. Results regarding the second goal showed that low-functioning children had lower scores on the child EA Scales than did high-functioning children, and the severity of the child's symptoms was related to lower scores on child and maternal EA dimensions. Finally, mothers' psychological distress was associated negatively with Nonintrusiveness. Conclusions. The EA Scales are useful for assessing children with ASDs. Associations between child functioning and diagnosis and maternal psychological distress and the emotional availability of mother-child interactions are highlighted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-197
Number of pages15
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grant 824/02 from the Israel Science Foundation. The authors would like to extend special thanks to the families and children for participating in the study. We also thank Alona Dinnerman, Smadar Gertner, Ayala Fridman, Shirly Gelman, and Yamit Nehav for their help in collecting and coding the data, and Cory Shulman for her assistance with children’s diagnostic assessments.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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