National University of Singapore1, Institute of Mental Health2
Children with a neurodevelopmental disorder, in particular, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism, experience poorer emotion regulation (ER) compared to typically developing children. Poorer ER was found to associate with poorer psychopathology, and social functioning. Past research examined the groups separately. By contrasting them in this study, results suggest that their similarities and differences may owe to overlapping and distinct neurodevelopmental facets respectively. This study thus investigated the ER capacity of young persons with ADHD and autism to elucidate the consequent differences relating to conduct problems, peer problems, hyperactivity-inattention, prosocial behaviour and emotion — specifically, depression and anxiety — symptoms.
Data on 20 children diagnosed with autism, 20 diagnosed with ADHD, and their mothers were subsetted from a larger ER study (DSRB/IRRC: 2017/00806). Participants were recruited from a specialist outpatient mental health clinic in Singapore. The Emotion Regulation Checklist, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire measured maternal-rated child ER and psychopathology respectively. Independent Samples t-test, Pearson’s correlation and regression were conducted.
There were no significant between-group ER capacity differences. Nonetheless, better ER was associated with less conduct problems, hyperactivity-inattention and emotion symptoms for children with autism. It was associated with less hyperactivity and more prosocial behaviours for children with ADHD.
Both groups’ similar ER capacities and their association with hyperactivity-inattention may owe to their overlapping neurodevelopmental factors. Both groups’ dissimilar relations between ER, conduct problems, emotional symptoms and prosocial behaviours probe research on distinct underlying neurodevelopmental facets.