Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Michael Siller

Committee Members

Kristen Gillespie-Lynch

Patricia Brooks

Nava Silton

Herb Saltzstein

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology


parenting, intervention, autism, randomized clinical trial


Previous research demonstrates that parenting-related schemas and perceptions, reflective functioning abilities, and emotional experiences (i.e., parental cognitions and emotions) play a pivotal role in predicting whether parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are actively involved in, and demonstrate capacity in, meeting their child’s needs in the context of intervention programs or services related to their child’s development. In light of these findings, researchers have focused increased attention towards investigating whether parent-mediated interventions that target children’s behaviors and developmental outcomes exert collateral effects on parental cognitions and emotions.

The current dissertation investigated a sample of 70 mothers of children with ASD (chronological age: M = 57.13 months; SD = 12.30) who participated in a randomized clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of a responsiveness-based parent-mediated intervention (Focused Playtime Intervention [FPI]). The first study presented as part of this research investigated baseline relationships among maternal insightfulness and resolution of diagnosis on narratives elicited by the Insightfulness Assessment (Oppenheim & Koren-Karie, 2002) and the Reaction to Diagnosis Interview (Pianta & Marvin, 1993), a range of questionnaire-based measures of parental cognitions and emotions, child characteristics, and family demographics. The second study investigated patterns of longitudinal change in maternal insightfulness with a focus on evaluating treatment effects from FPI and determining contextual predictors of change.

Findings from multiple regression analyses revealed significant concurrent relationships among the constellation of parental cognitions and emotions evaluated as part of this research. Results from fitting a series of multilevel mixed models revealed that the rate of growth of maternal insightfulness was predicted by FPI treatment group allocation, family annual income, and the working alliance between mothers and interventionists. Follow-up analyses revealed that FPI treatment group allocation also predicted the rate of growth of maternal concepts of development and perceived sense of competence. Child characteristics were unrelated to baseline or longitudinal findings. Results are interpreted in the context of previous findings and the long-term research goals of this line of inquiry.