Mother-infant interactions in at-risk autism siblings: A basis for very early intervention?

PI: Professor Jonathan Green (University of Manchester)
Funding: ESRC

This project is interested in the early social interactions between babies who are the younger siblings of children diagnosed with autism (A-sibs) and their parents. Because Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has a strong genetic component, a number of these babies will go on to develop the disorder, and research suggests that A-sib babies are more likely than other babies to show impaired social and communication skills. Social interactions between infants and their carers in the first year of life are known to play an important role in the development of babies’ social and communication skills.  If these interactions are compromised, this is likely to add to any developmental difficulties an A-sib infant may have. Parents of infants with ASD often describe interaction with their baby as baffling and difficult. Although there is no evidence that such interaction difficulties are a cause of ASD, it is possible that they compound developmental difficulties in these children. This study aims to identify those detailed social interactive processes that are so important early in development, by examining in detail mother-infant interactions in a large national sample of 6-15 month old A-sibs, in the hope that this might open up possibilities for early ‘preventative’ work in the form of targeted parent-mediated intervention.