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See detailSuicidality in adults with autism spectrum disorder: The role of depressive symptomatology, alexithymia, and antidepressants.
Pinto Costa, Andreia UL; Loor, Cathia; Steffgen, Georges UL

in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (2020)

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have an increased risk of suicidality. However, the risk factors remain under-investigated. This study explored factors that increase suicidality risk in ASD ... [more ▼]

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have an increased risk of suicidality. However, the risk factors remain under-investigated. This study explored factors that increase suicidality risk in ASD. Through an online survey, 150 adults with ASD were compared to 189 control adults. Autistic traits, depressive symptomatology, alexithymia, and antidepressant intake were assessed on their contribution predicting suicidality. Among people with ASD, 63% scored above the cutoff for high suicidality risk. Increased autistic traits, depressive symptomatology, and antidepressant intake significantly predicted suicidality. Furthermore, among those with high levels of autistic traits, the risk of suicidality was increased if they also had high levels of alexithymia. These results highlight the importance of considering depression, antidepressants, and alexithymia to prevent suicidality in ASD. [less ▲]

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See detailThe role of alexithymia in parent-child interaction and in the emotional ability of children with autism spectrum disorder
Pinto Costa, Andreia UL; Steffgen, Georges UL; Vögele, Claus UL

in Autism Research (2019)

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have more emotional difficulties than typically developing (TD) children. Of all the factors that impact children’s emotional development, parents, and the way ... [more ▼]

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have more emotional difficulties than typically developing (TD) children. Of all the factors that impact children’s emotional development, parents, and the way they interact with their children, are of crucial importance. The present study compared the amount of parent-child interactions among 35 dyads of parents and their children with ASD and 41 dyads of parents and their TD children, aged between 3 and 13 years, during a frustration-eliciting situation. We further examined whether children’s alexithymia is linked to parent-child interactions and whether parent-child interactions are linked to children’s emotional difficulties. We found that parents of children with ASD interacted significantly less with their children than parents of TD children. This reduced interaction was better explained by children’s alexithymia than by children’s ASD diagnosis. Finally, parent-child interaction mediated the relationship between children’s ASD diagnosis and children’s emotion regulation ability, as well as some aspects of children’s emotional reactivity but only if not accounting for children’s alexithymia levels. Our results demonstrate the determinant role children’s alexithymia plays on parent-child interactions and on how these interactions are linked to children’s difficulties in emotion regulation and emotional reactivity. Results are discussed in light of how parent-child interactions and the emotional ability of children with ASD can be improved by targeting children’s alexithymia. [less ▲]

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See detailMental health benefits of a robot-mediated emotional ability training for children with autism: An exploratory study.
Pinto Costa, Andreia UL; Kirsten, Lena; Charpiot, Louise UL et al

Scientific Conference (2019)

Background: Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have a high prevalence of mental health problems that are linked to reduced emotional abilities. Therefore, interventions that teach emotional ... [more ▼]

Background: Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have a high prevalence of mental health problems that are linked to reduced emotional abilities. Therefore, interventions that teach emotional abilities are fundamental for their development. However, existing interventions are costly, of difficult access, or inefficient for children with ASD. Furthermore, children with ASD have a preference for sameness and routines that makes technology, and especially robots, an ideal medium to convey interventions that are suitable to their needs. Objectives: The aim of the present exploratory study is to evaluate whether a robot-mediated emotional ability training is effective in enhancing the emotional ability and the mental health of children with ASD. Methods: Using a pre-post training design, 12 children with ASD (all boys) aged between 8 and 14 years (M = 10.93; SD = 2.46) undertook a 7 week long emotional ability training mediated by a robot. Sessions took place weekly and lasted 1h each. Children were compared before (T1) and after (T2) the training on their emotional ability and their mental health. Emotional ability was measured through the parent-report measures Emotion Regulation Checklist (ERC; Shields & Cicchetti, 1997), Emotion Regulation Rating Scale (ERRS; Carlson & Wang, 2007), Self-Control Rating Scale (SCRS; Kendall & Wilcox, 1979), and the Alexithymia Questionnaire for Children (Rieffe et al., 2006); as well through a direct measure of children’s use of emotion regulation strategies using the Reactive and Regulation Situation Tasks (Carthy et al., 2010). Mental health was measured through the parent-report measures Children Behavior Checklist (CBCL; Achenbach & Rescorla, 2001), Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ; Goodman, 1997), and the Social Responsiveness Scale-2 (SRS-2; Constantino, 2002). Results: It was found that regarding emotional ability, children’s use of emotion regulation strategies in the Reactive and Regulation Situation Task, improved significantly after the training (t(10) = 2.81, p < .01) but no significant improvements were found on the parent-reported measures (ERC: t(10) = 0.43, p = .34; SCRS: t(10) = 1.26, p = .12), except for a marginally significant effect on children’s emotional control (ERRS: t(10) = 1.79, p = .05). Regarding mental health, the training significantly reduced internalizing problems (CBCL: t(11) = 1.91, p < .05; SDQ: t(11) = 3.19, p < .01) and autism-related symptomatology (SRS-2: t(11) = 3.24, p < .01), but did not have an effect on externalizing problems (CBCL: t(11) = 0.41, p = 34; SDQ: t(11) = 3.13, p = 07). Discussion: Overall, the results of the present study are to be interpreted cautiously, they provide restricted evidence of positive effects of the robot-mediated emotional ability training in children’s use of adaptive emotional abilities and in mental health issues such as depressive symptomatology and anxiety as well as autism-related social communication difficulties. This exploratory study contributes to the research progress in the domain of robot-mediated interventions for children with ASD. [less ▲]

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See detailSuicidality in adults with autism spectrum disorder: The role of depression and alexithymia.
Pinto Costa, Andreia UL; Loor, Cathia; Steffgen, Georges UL

Scientific Conference (2019)

Background: Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a higher risk of depression and suicidality than individuals without ASD. Alexithymia, a personality construct characterized by a lack of ... [more ▼]

Background: Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a higher risk of depression and suicidality than individuals without ASD. Alexithymia, a personality construct characterized by a lack of emotional awareness, that is highly linked to depression, is also more prevalent among people with ASD than in the general population. Few studies have so far examined the increased risk of suicidality in people with ASD and none have looked into how alexithymia could be a significant risk factor for suicidality in ASD. Objectives: The aim of the present study is to explore more closely the relationship between alexithymia, depression, and suicidality in ASD. It is hypothesized that there are higher rates of depression, suicidality, and alexithymia in people with ASD compared to neurotypical adults. Because the risk of suicidality can be explained by high levels of depression and alexithymia in the general population, this is also hypothesized for the group of people with ASD. Methods: In the present study, 53 adults diagnosed with ASD and a control group of 132 adults without ASD were compared on their self-reported scores on autistic traits (AQ-short), depression (CES-D), suicidality (SBQ-R), and alexithymia (TAS-20). Participants were aged between 18 and 60 years. The ASD group was significantly older (M = 33.75; SD = 11.02) than the control group (M = 29.08; SD = 8.74), t(183) = -3.04, p < .01 and there were significantly more men than women in the ASD group (21 men, 31 women, 1 other) than in the control group (31 men, 101 women), χ2(2) = 7.72, p < .05. Results: The results revealed that the ASD group had significantly higher levels of autistic traits [F(1, 181) = 394.61, p < .001, ɳp2 = .69], depression [F(1, 181) = 51.86, p < .001, ɳp2 = .22], suicidality [F(1, 181) = 71.51, p < .001, ɳp2 = .28], and alexithymia [F(1,181) = 143.44, p < .001, ɳp2 = .44] than the control group. A hierarchical linear regression analysis including age, gender, autistic traits, depressive symptomatology, and alexithymia also revealed that the severity of autistic traits and depressive symptomatology were significant predictors of suicidality (autistic traits: β = 1.24, p <.001; depression: β = 1.30, p <.001). Furthermore, alexithymia played a moderating role in the relation between autistic traits and suicidality: a significant relation was found between autistic traits and suicidality on participants with high levels of alexithymia [b = 1.61, SE = 0.31, p < .001], but autistic traits were not related to suicidality on participants with low levels of alexithymia [b = -0.54, SE = .45, p = .24]. Conclusions: The present results show that individuals with ASD are vulnerable to suicidal ideation and that the severity of autistic traits, depression, and alexithymia are important factors in the occurrence of suicidal ideation in ASD. Because of the high risk of suicidality in ASD, interventions that take into consideration depression, and particularly alexithymia, could potentially benefit people with ASD. [less ▲]

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See detailAttitudes of Children with Autism towards Robots: An Exploratory Study
Pinto Costa, Andreia UL; Schweich, Tonie UL; Charpiot, Louise UL et al

in ACM SIGCHI IDC2018 Workshop on Children's Robotics and Child-Robot Interaction (2018, June)

In this exploratory study we assessed how attitudes of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) towards robots together with children’s autism-related social impairments are linked to indicators of ... [more ▼]

In this exploratory study we assessed how attitudes of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) towards robots together with children’s autism-related social impairments are linked to indicators of children’s preference of an interaction with a robot over an interaction with a person. We found that children with ASD have overall positive attitudes towards robots and that they often prefer interacting with a robot than with a person. Several of children’s attitudes were linked to children’s longer gazes towards a robot compared to a person. Autism-related social impairments were linked to more repetitive and stereotyped behaviors and to a shorter gaze duration in the interaction with the robot compared to the person. These preliminary results contribute to better understand factors that might help determine sub-groups of children with ASD for whom robots could be particularly useful. [less ▲]

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See detailMore Attention and Less Repetitive and Stereotyped Behaviors using a Robot with Children with Autism
Pinto Costa, Andreia UL; Charpiot, Louise UL; Rodriguez Lera, Francisco Javier UL et al

in 27th IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication, RO-MAN 2018, Nanjing, China, August 27-31, 2018 (2018)

The aim of the present study was to assess the usefulness of QTrobot, a socially assistive robot, in interventions with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by assessing children's attention ... [more ▼]

The aim of the present study was to assess the usefulness of QTrobot, a socially assistive robot, in interventions with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by assessing children's attention, imitation, and presence of repetitive and stereotyped behaviors. Fifteen children diagnosed with ASD, aged from 4 to 14 years participated in two short interactions, one with a person and one with the robot. Statistical analyses revealed that children directed more attention towards the robot than towards the person, imitated the robot as much as the person, and engaged in fewer repetitive or stereotyped behaviors with the robot than with the person. These results support previous research demonstrating the usefulness of robots in short interactions with children with ASD and provide new evidence to the usefulness of robots in reducing repetitive and stereotyped behaviors in children with ASD, which can affect children's learning. [less ▲]

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See detailA comparison between a person and a robot in the attention, imitation, and repetitive and stereotypical behaviors of children with autism spectrum disorder.
Pinto Costa, Andreia UL; Charpiot, Louise UL; Lera, Francisco et al

Scientific Conference (2018)

The aim of the present study was to assess the usefulness of QT, a socially assistive robot, in interventions with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by assessing children’s attention, imitation ... [more ▼]

The aim of the present study was to assess the usefulness of QT, a socially assistive robot, in interventions with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by assessing children’s attention, imitation, and presence of repetitive and stereotyped behaviors. Fifteen children diagnosed with ASD, aged from 4 to 14 years participated in two short interactions, one with a person and one with QT robot. Statistical analyses revealed that children directed more attention towards the robot than to the person, imitated the robot as much as the person, and engaged in fewer repetitive or stereotyped behaviors with the robot than with the person. These results support previous research demonstrating the usefulness of robots in interventions with children with ASD and provide new evidence to the usefulness of robots in reducing repetitive and stereotyped behaviors in children with ASD, which can affect children’s learning. [less ▲]

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See detailThe link between focused attention and emotion regulation ability in children with ASD.
Pinto Costa, Andreia UL; Couronne, Céline; Steffgen, Georges UL

Scientific Conference (2018)

Background: Empirical studies have frequently highlighted the importance of attentional mechanisms in the emotion regulation of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For instance, people with ASD ... [more ▼]

Background: Empirical studies have frequently highlighted the importance of attentional mechanisms in the emotion regulation of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For instance, people with ASD present distinct gaze patterns when looking at emotional stimuli. However, far less research has focused on the link between general attentional capacity and the ability to regulate emotions in people with ASD. In the typically developing (TD) literature it is shown that children’s focused and sustained attention to non-emotional stimuli is related to a better regulation of negative emotions. Therefore, studying this link in ASD can help understand emotional difficulties in children with ASD. Objectives: The present study aims to analyse the link between sustained attention to non-emotional stimuli and the use of emotion regulation strategies during a frustration-eliciting situation in children with ASD. Methods: Thirty-seven children previously diagnosed with ASD (5 female) and 41 TD children (9 female) aged 3 to 13 years old participated in the study. Children first took part in a sustained attention task in which they watched a 3-minute slide presentation of 15 pictures of landscapes, animals, and humans. Then, children took part in a frustration-eliciting situation during which they were presented with attractive toys. After 15 seconds playing with the toys those were removed and placed behind a transparent barrier. Both tasks were videotaped and children’s behaviors were coded by two independent observers. In the sustained attention task children were coded regarding the intensity of facial interest (0=not interested, 1=interested, 2=very interested) and the total amount of time in seconds looking at the slide presentation (maximum = 180 seconds). In the frustration-eliciting situation children’s behaviors were coded into 12 categories and then grouped into 3 emotion regulation strategies: disruptive behavior (physical objection, crying/venting, defending, infraction, and verbal objection), passive tolerance (staring, doing nothing, self-distraction, and parent/researcher), and active self-regulation (directing situation, alternating activity, and complying). Results: Regarding attention, children with ASD displayed less interest in the slide presentation [t(70)=4.118, p<.001, d=0.96] and watched the presentation for less time [t(43)=5.492, p<.001, d=1.33] than TD children. Regarding the use of emotion regulation strategies, a significant effect of group was found [Λ=.71, F(3,74)=10.26, p<.001, η_p^2=.29]. Separate univariate ANOVAs revealed that children with ASD used more disruptive behaviors [F(1,76)=25.24, p<.001, η_p^2=.25] and less passive tolerance behaviors [F(1,76)=11.35, p<.01, η_p^2=.13] than TD children but did not differ regarding active self-regulation behaviors [F(1,76)=2.03, p=.16, η_p^2=.03]. Regression analyses revealed that children’s total duration of look but not the interest during the attention task significantly predicted children’s use of disruptive behavior (β=-1.12, p<.01) and passive tolerance (β=1.26, p<.01) above and beyond ASD diagnosis. Conclusions: Our results show a significant association between children’s capacity for sustained attention and their use of less disruptive behaviors and more passive tolerance behaviors as emotion regulation strategies. However, mutual influences between sustained attention and emotion regulation can occur and should be taken into consideration when interpreting the results. The present results offer new perspectives on intervention programs for children with ASD with emotional difficulties. [less ▲]

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See detailThe coping of bystanders with cyberbullying in an adolescent population
Steffgen, Georges UL; Pinto Costa, Andreia UL; Slee, Phillip T.

in Slee, Phillip T.; Skrzypiec, Grace; Cefai, Carmel (Eds.) Child and Adolescent Wellbeing and Violence Prevention in Schools (2018)

Cyberbullying is a serious social phenomenon that occurs in different settings. In line with the participant role approach (Salmivalli, 2010), different bystanders (e.g. assistants, reinforcers, defenders ... [more ▼]

Cyberbullying is a serious social phenomenon that occurs in different settings. In line with the participant role approach (Salmivalli, 2010), different bystanders (e.g. assistants, reinforcers, defenders, and outsiders), likewise cyberbullies, and cybervictims are involved in cyberbullying incidents. The current study explores how participants in cyberbullying incidents differ in coping behaviour. Students of German and Luxembourg secondary schools (n = 367) completed a questionnaire, amongst others, on participant roles and coping. Coping behavior was classified into six strategies: other-focused, self-focused, avoidance, relationships improvement, assertive responses, and technical responses (AUTHORS et al, 2012). These coping behaviors were mostly interrelated. Regression analysis showed that avoidance, self-focused strategies, and assertive responses predicted victimization. Additionally, defender behavior was predicted by reduced technical responses and enhanced other focused strategies. Hence, different actors in cyberbullying incidents differ systematically in coping behavior. The implications of the findings are of relevance for the development of efficient coping-based intervention programs against cyberbullying. In particular, avoidance, self- and other-focused strategies of actors in cyberbullying incidents have to be considered in intervention programs. [less ▲]

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See detailLuxembourg and Autism
Pinto Costa, Andreia UL; Steffgen, Georges UL

in Volkmar, Fred (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders (2018)

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See detailDoes physical learning environment matter? Effects after the move to a new campus on the perception of the quality of studies
Steffgen, Georges UL; Vesely, Jana; Pinto Costa, Andreia UL

Poster (2017, September 18)

The present study examined the effects of a move to a new physical learning environment – Belval Campus – on the students’ satisfaction with the course program in psychology. It was hypothesized that the ... [more ▼]

The present study examined the effects of a move to a new physical learning environment – Belval Campus – on the students’ satisfaction with the course program in psychology. It was hypothesized that the move to a new and modern University campus with better study facilities increases course climate, learning promotion, and skill acquisition. Participants were 538 undergraduate students who completed the Bachelor Evaluation Questionnaire, which assessed the perceived quality of the course program as well as five infrastructure and equipment aspects of the new campus. Findings show that students were more satisfied with the classrooms, the capacity of the rooms, and the library facilities, but there was no increase in perceived course climate, learning promotion, and skill acquisition of the students after 6 months nor after 18 months from the move. The implications of these findings for the need to change physical learning environments are discussed and recommendations for the design of learning environments are presented. [less ▲]

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See detailSocially assistive robots for teaching emotional abilities to children with autism spectrum disorder
Pinto Costa, Andreia UL; Steffgen, Georges UL; Rodriguez Lera, Francisco Javier UL et al

Scientific Conference (2017, March)

Socially assistive robots, when used in a way that takes into consideration children’s needs and developmental characteristics, can be useful tools to enable children’s development. More specifically, due ... [more ▼]

Socially assistive robots, when used in a way that takes into consideration children’s needs and developmental characteristics, can be useful tools to enable children’s development. More specifically, due to their characteristics (predictability, simplicity, and repetition) robots can be especially helpful to teach emotional abilities to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Previous research has provided preliminary evidence that robots can help children improve in some domains such as joint attention and imitation. However, no studies have examined how robots can be integrated in intervention protocols targeting the acquisition of emotional abilities in children with ASD. This paper presents a work in progress on an emotional ability training developed for children with ASD using the QT socially assistive robot. This training aims to test whether children with ASD can benefit from a robot-mediated training to improve emotional ability. [less ▲]

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See detailContributors to well-being and stress in parents of children with autism spectrum disorder
Pinto Costa, Andreia UL; Steffgen, Georges UL; Ferring, Dieter UL

in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders (2017)

Background: Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) present more well-being and stress problems than parents of typically developing (TD) children. However not all parents present these ... [more ▼]

Background: Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) present more well-being and stress problems than parents of typically developing (TD) children. However not all parents present these problems. These problems can be due to a dynamic interaction between environmental antecedents, person antecedents, and mediating processes. Understanding how these factors separately contribute to explain parents’ well-being and stress can have implications for intervention programs. The aim of this study was to explain parents’ subjective well-being and physiological stress by considering whether they had a child with ASD or not and their child’s negativity (environmental antecedents), their perception of their child’s problems (person antecedents), and their use of reappraisal (mediating processes). Method: Thirty-seven parents of children with ASD and 41 parents of TD children reported their subjective well-being and their physiological stress was assessed. Additionally, children’s negativity was observed, parents rated their perception of their child’s problems (autistic traits, emotion regulation ability, and lability/negativity), and parents reported their use of reappraisal. Results: Compared to parents of TD children, parents of children with ASD reported having lower subjective well-being and had increased physiological stress. Parents’ perceptions of children’s lability/negativity and parents’ use of reappraisal were better predictors of parents’ subjective well-being than ASD and parents’ perceptions of children’s lability/negativity contributed to parents’ physiological stress as much as ASD. Conclusions: Prevention and intervention programs targeting parental well-being and stress will benefit from working with parents at the level of perceptual constructs and reappraisal ability. [less ▲]

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See detailProCRob Architecture for Personalized Social Robotics
Ziafati, Pouyan; Rodriguez Lera, Francisco Javier UL; Pinto Costa, Andreia UL et al

Scientific Conference (2017)

For robot tutors, autonomy and personalizations are important factors in order to engage users as well as to personalize the content and interaction according to the needs of individuals. This paper ... [more ▼]

For robot tutors, autonomy and personalizations are important factors in order to engage users as well as to personalize the content and interaction according to the needs of individuals. This paper presents the Programming Cognitive Robot (ProCRob) software architecture to target personalized social robotics in two complementary ways. ProCRob supports the development and personalization of social robot applications by teachers and therapists without computer programming background. It also supports the development of autonomous robots which can adapt according to the human-robot interaction context. ProCRob is based on our previous research on autonomous robotics and has been developed since 2015 by a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from the fields of AI, Robotics and Psychology as well as artists and designers at the University of Luxembourg. ProCRob is currently being used and further developed for therapy of children with autism, and for encouraging rehabilitation activities in patients with post-stroke. This is paper presents a summary of ProCRob and its application in autism. [less ▲]

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See detailThe role of parents in children’s emotional ability.
Pinto Costa, Andreia UL; Steffgen, Georges UL; Vögele, Claus UL

Scientific Conference (2017)

Understanding the processes that lead to different emotional responses in children is important for prevention and intervention programs aimed at improving developmental outcomes. Among the many factors ... [more ▼]

Understanding the processes that lead to different emotional responses in children is important for prevention and intervention programs aimed at improving developmental outcomes. Among the many factors that can influence children’s emotional reactivity and emotion regulation, parents and the way they interact with their children can impact children’s emotional responses. Even though the influence of parents in children’s emotional responses has been extensively studied during infancy and toddlerhood, the way parents interact with their preschool and school-aged children during upsetting moments has received little attention. The present study aimed at examining the effects of parental presence and parental interaction during a frustration-eliciting situation on preschoolers’ and school-aged children’s emotional reactivity and emotion regulation. More specifically, it aimed at examining whether parents’ presence during a frustration-eliciting situation (attractive toy removal) influences children’s emotional reactivity and emotion regulation. Moreover, whether children whose parents interact with them differ in emotional reactivity and emotion regulation from those whose parents do not interact with them. A convenience sample of 66 children (19 girls) together with one of their parents participated in the study. Children were aged between 3 and 13 years (Mage=8.65; SDage=2.32) and parents were aged between 26 to 53 years (Mage=40.38; SDage=5.22). For 41 children, parents were present during the frustration-eliciting situation. For the remaining 25 children, parents were absent. Children and parents who were present were videotaped during the situation. Parents’ interaction with their children, children’s emotional reactivity, and children’s emotion regulation during the situation were coded by 2 independent observers. Ethical approval as well as parents’ and children’s informed consent was obtained before conducting the study. It was found that children whose parents were present, compared to children whose parents were absent, expressed more positive emotions [t(63)=3.19, p<.01, r=.37] and less neutral emotions [t(64)=2.92, p<.01, r=.34], but did not differ in the amount of negative emotions [t(64)=0.28, p=.78, r=.03], or in the use of adaptive emotion regulation strategies [t(64)=0.99, p=.33, r=.12]. Regarding parents’ interaction, it was found that children of parents who interacted with them, compared to children of parents who did not interact with them, expressed less neutral emotions [t(39)=2.80, p<.01, r=.41], expressed more positive [t(39)=2.01, p=.05, r=.31] and more negative emotions [t(33)=2.30, p<.05, r=.37], and used more emotion regulation strategies [t(39)=2.55, p<.05, r=.38]. These results show that parents’ presence can have an influence in preschoolers’ and school-aged children’s positive reactivity but not in children’s negative reactivity or in the use of adaptive emotion regulation strategies. Furthermore, when present, parents’ interaction with their children is related to children’s lower neutrality, and to higher positive and negative reactivity. It is also related to children’s use of more adaptive emotion regulation strategies. These results suggest that, either because parents interact more with reactive children, or because children are more expressive with interactive parents, parents’ interaction is related to children’s reactivity and better regulation. Including parents in interventions and providing parents with training on emotional support for their children may be beneficial for improving developmental outcomes in children with emotional difficulties. [less ▲]

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See detailExpressive incoherence and alexithymia in autism spectrum disorder
Pinto Costa, Andreia UL; Steffgen, Georges UL; Samson, Andrea C.

in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (2017)

Expressive incoherence can be implicated in socio-emotional communicative problems in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The present study examined expressive incoherence in 37 children with ASD and 41 ... [more ▼]

Expressive incoherence can be implicated in socio-emotional communicative problems in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The present study examined expressive incoherence in 37 children with ASD and 41 typically developing (TD) children aged 3–13 years old during a frustration task. The role of alexithymia in expressive incoherence was also assessed. Compared to TD children, children with ASD had higher expressive incoherence, such as more neutral and positive emotion expressions during negative behaviors, but not in the expression of negative emotions during positive behaviors. Further analyses revealed that alexithymia moderated the expressions of positive emotions during negative behaviors. These results suggest that children with ASD may benefit from interventions targeting alexithymia to increase emotional coherence, which may improve socio-emotional communication. [less ▲]

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See detailCoping with cyberbullying: A comparison between schools
Steffgen, Georges UL; Pinto Costa, Andreia UL

Scientific Conference (2016, July 15)

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See detailEmotional reactivity and emotion regulation in children with autism spectrum disorder.
Pinto Costa, Andreia UL

Doctoral thesis (2016)

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and social interaction, as well as restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors and ... [more ▼]

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and social interaction, as well as restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors and interests. Additionally, children with ASD often present internalizing and externalizing problems such as anxiety, depression, and conduct problems. These problems can hinder children’s social competence and development and may have repercussions into adolescence and adulthood. It is believed that internalizing and externalizing problems originate from children’s emotional difficulties such as difficulties in emotional reactivity and emotion regulation. The aim of the present thesis was therefore to examine the role of emotional reactivity and emotion regulation in children with ASD. Emotional difficulties in children with ASD may be due to several factors: ASD’s core symptoms, children’s other characteristics such as alexithymia, and parents’ characteristics. The relation between these factors to emotional difficulties in children with ASD have been integrated into a model of the emotional reactivity and emotion regulation difficulties in children with ASD. Based on the model’s assumptions different hypotheses were formulated for the present thesis: (a) ASD’s core symptoms contribute to children’s emotional difficulties by increasing emotional reactivity, decreasing emotion regulation, and increasing emotional incoherence; (b) children’s alexithymia also contributes to children’s emotional difficulties by increasing them; (c) ASD’s core symptoms are related to parents’ characteristics by decreasing parents’ emotion regulation capacity, increasing parents’ stress reaction, and decreasing parents’ frequency of interaction with their children; (d) difficulties in emotional reactivity and emotion regulation in children together with alexithymia are also related to parents’ characteristics; (e) in turn, parents’ frequency of interaction with the child also contributes to children’s difficulties in emotional reactivity and emotion regulation. Applying a multimethod approach where parents-reports, parents’ self-reports, observations, and physiological indicators were used, 37 children with ASD and 66 typically developing (TD) children and their parents were assessed. It was found that: (a) children with ASD had more emotional reactivity, less emotion regulation ability, and more emotional incoherence than TD children; (b) children’s alexithymia contributed more than ASD diagnosis to the explanation of some aspects of emotional reactivity and emotional incoherence but not of emotion regulation; (c) parents of children with ASD had more emotion regulation difficulties, more stress, and interacted less frequently with their children than parents of TD children; (d) parents’ perceptions of children’s difficulties contributed more to parents’ emotion regulation capacity and as much to parents’ stress as ASD diagnosis; moreover, children’s alexithymia also contributed more to parents’ frequency of interaction with their children than ASD diagnosis; and (e) parents’ frequency of interaction with their children contributed to more positive and negative emotional expressions and to the use of better emotion regulation strategies in children. The present findings highlight the complexity of emotional difficulties in children with ASD by suggesting that difficulties in emotional reactivity and emotion regulation are reflected at the subjective, observational, and physiological levels. Furthermore, these difficulties are influenced by different factors: children’s ASD characteristics, children’s other characteristics such as alexithymia, and parents’ characteristics. Given the relevance of emotional difficulties to internalizing and externalizing problems in children with ASD it is important that interventions include a multicomponent approach to emotional difficulties in ASD. Furthermore, interventions would benefit from integrating children’s alexithymia and parents’ characteristics such as their difficulties with emotion regulation and stress to help alleviate emotional difficulties in children with ASD. Finally, parents’ trainings on learning strategies to deal with their children’s emotional reactivity might prove beneficial both for parents and for children. [less ▲]

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