Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology


Behavioral Science



First Advisor

Theodore Walls


This dissertation was constructed to better understand the role that emotion regulation(ER) difficulties have in the lives of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Three research methods were utilized and are presented in this order: secondary data analysis, systematic literature review, and a cross-sectional observational study. The secondary data analysis (chapter one) aimed to understand the association between family conflict, child ER, parent perceived stress, and ASD-related social responsiveness in a sample of 2,229 children included in a nationwide longitudinal study. Findings suggest that higher social responsiveness scores predict more ER difficulties as reported by a parent. Parent perceived stress and child ER were positively associated. The findings regarding social responsiveness and ER in a typically developing sample prompted a review of the ER literature specifically pertaining ASD symptoms specifically. A systematic literature review (chapter two) examined literature from 30 articles about ER difficulties in school aged children with an ASD diagnosis. General findings suggest that this population often struggles with ER difficulties and there are many mechanisms which contribute to troubles regulating emotions. Poor outcomes have been associated with ER difficulties and a variety of clinical interventions have been created to improve ER for this population. There is some research regarding parent involvement in coregulation, specifically regarding parents engaging in scaffolding and supportive behaviors when children are experiencing strong emotional states, but the parent’s own ER efforts are not often studied. These findings led to an examination of child and parent ER through cross-sectional data collection (chapter three). Data were collected from 173 parents, whose children have an ASD diagnosis, about their own and their child’s ER difficulties, their child’s ASD symptom severity, and information regarding other mechanisms that could be associated with ER. Findings suggest that more severe ASD symptoms predict both parent and child ER. Signs of mutual influence between parents and children regarding ER difficulties were found, but the strength and direction of these relationships did not align with hypotheses. Overall, studying dyadic ER in ASD families is important to build context for the ER difficulties children typically experience. Gaining a better understanding of dyadic ER may help us to continue building interventions that provide ER support for the entire family. Continued research is needed to examine the role of dyadic ER longitudinally, which would allow for a more complex exploration of the role dyadic ER may have on general family functioning and cohesion.

Available for download on Sunday, January 12, 2025