Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Heather Henderson

Second Committee Member

Kristin Lindahl

Third Committee Member

Michael Alessandri

Fourth Committee Member

Peter Mundy

Fifth Committee Member

Blaine Fowers


This study investigated the impact of family factors on individual differences in the social and emotional development of children with autism and their families. Based on the modifier model hypothesis suggested by Mundy, Henderson, Inge, and Coman (2007), family factors may serve as a modifier that contributes to the variability in the phenotypic presentation of children with higher functioning autism. Results indicated that Expressed Emotion (EE) was associated with parent-reported hyperactivity and anxiety in children and adolescents. Family cohesion was associated with parent-reported aggression and depression. These results differed for typically developing and HFA children; higher EE or lower cohesion was associated with greater impairment in the HFA group and less impairment in the typically developing children. Family factors were not associated with social symptoms, indicating these effects may be more related to the development of comorbidity than to the core symptoms of autism. Expressed emotion was related meaningfully to neutral attributions on the FMSS and provided validity for the measure. Family factors were not associated with parental stress, which was not expected. Implications for clinical interventions and future directions are discussed.


Autism; Asperger Syndrome; Cohesion; Expressed Emotion; Family Factors; Comorbidity