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1.  Parasympathetic Response Profiles Related to Social Functioning in Young Children with Autistic Disorder 
Autism Research and Treatment  2013;2013:868396.
Psychophysiology studies of heart rate and heart rate variability can be employed to study regulatory processes in children with autism. The objective of this study was to test for differences in respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA; a measure of heart rate variability) and to examine the relationship between physiologic responses and measures of social behavior. Participants included 2- to 6-year-old children with Autistic Disorder and children without autism. Heart rate and RSA were derived from ECG recordings made during a baseline period and then a stranger approach paradigm. Social and adaptive behavior was assessed by parent report. Groups did not differ in mean heart rate or RSA at baseline or in response to social challenge. However, children with autism were more likely to show a physiologic response to intrusive portions of the stranger approach than to less intrusive portions of this procedure. Nonautistic children were equally likely to respond to intrusive and less intrusive social events. Within the autistic group, physiologic response to the intrusive stranger approach corresponded to higher ratings of social adaptive behaviors. These results suggest that physiologic responses to social challenge may help understand differences in social behavioral outcomes in children with autism.
doi:10.1155/2013/868396
PMCID: PMC3794559  PMID: 24175094
2.  Maintaining Participation and Momentum in Longitudinal Research Involving High-Risk Families 
Journal of Nursing Scholarship  2012;44(2):120-126.
Purpose
The purpose of the current study was to identify and describe strategies available to optimize retention of a high-risk research cohort and assist in the recovery of study participants following participant dropout.
Design and Methods
The Maternal Lifestyle Study (MLS), which investigated the effects of prenatal substance exposure (cocaine or opiates) on child outcome, is a prospective longitudinal follow-up study that extended from birth through 15 years of age. Retention strategies to maximize participation and factors that might negatively impact compliance were examined over the course of five follow-up phases.
Findings
At the conclusion of the 15-year visits, MLS had successfully maintained compliance at 76%. Retention rates did not differ by exposure group.
Conclusions
Maintaining ongoing participation of enrolled study subjects is a critical element of any successful longitudinal study. Strategies that can be used to reengage and maintain participants in longitudinal research include persistence, flexibility with scheduling, home visits, long-distance trips, increased incentives, and development of a computerized tracking system. Establishing rapport with families and ensuring confidentiality contributed to overall participant retention. The use of multiple tracking techniques is essential.
Clinical Relevance
Researchers are challenged to maintain participants in longitudinal studies to ensure the integrity of their research.
doi:10.1111/j.1547-5069.2012.01439.x
PMCID: PMC3366028  PMID: 22458928
Longitudinal research; participant retention; tracking; compliance
3.  The Effect of Parenting Stress on Child Behavior Problems in High-Risk Children with Prenatal Drug Exposure 
Objective
To examine the relationship between early parenting stress and later child behavior in a high risk sample and measure the effect of drug exposure on the relationship between parenting stress and child behavior.
Methods
A subset of child-caregiver dyads (n = 607) were selected from the Maternal Lifestyle Study, which is a large sample of children (n = 1388) with prenatal cocaine exposure and a comparison sample unexposed to cocaine. Of the 607 dyads, 221 were prenatally exposed to cocaine and 386 were unexposed to cocaine. Selection was based on the presence of a stable caregiver at 4 and 36 months with no evidence of change in caregiver between those time points.
Results
Parenting stress at 4 months significantly predicted child externalizing behavior at 36 months. These relations were unaffected by cocaine exposure suggesting the relationship between parenting stress and behavioral outcome exists for high-risk children regardless of drug exposure history.
Conclusions
These results extend the findings of the relationship between parenting stress and child behavior to a sample of high-risk children with prenatal drug exposure. Implications for outcome and treatment are discussed.
doi:10.1007/s10578-008-0109-6
PMCID: PMC2861499  PMID: 18626768
disruptive behavior; parenting stress; high-risk children; prenatal drug exposure; cocaine
4.  Parent-Child Interaction Therapy for Children Born Premature: A Case Study and Illustration of Vagal Tone as a Physiological Measure of Treatment Outcome 
Cognitive and behavioral practice  2009;16(4):468-477.
Evidence-based psychosocial interventions for externalizing behavior problems in children born premature have not been reported in the literature. This single-case study describes Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) with a 23-month-old child born at 29 weeks gestation weighing 1,020 grams, who presented with significant externalizing behavior problems. Treatment outcome was assessed using standard measures of maternal and child functioning and observational measures of the parent-child interaction, as well as a physiological measure of heart rate variability (i.e., vagal tone) used to assess parasympathetic control in the child. Maternal reports of child behavior problems and their own stress and depressive symptoms decreased after treatment. Behavioral observations demonstrated improved parenting practices and child compliance, and vagal tone showed comparable increases as well. Results suggest that PCIT is a promising psychosocial intervention for children born premature with externalizing behavior problems, and that vagal tone may be a useful measure of treatment outcome.
doi:10.1016/j.cbpra.2009.05.002
PMCID: PMC2860291  PMID: 20428470
5.  Longitudinal Study of Maternal Report of Sleep Problems in Children with Prenatal Exposure to Cocaine and Other Drugs 
Behavioral sleep medicine  2009;7(4):196-207.
Sleep data were collected by maternal report in a prospective longitudinal follow-up of cocaine exposed and unexposed children. There were 139 subjects: 23 with no prenatal drug exposure, 55 exposed to cocaine alone or in combination with other drugs, and 61 exposed to drugs other than cocaine. Characteristics differed between exposure groups, including birth size, caretaker changes, and maternal SES and postnatal drug use. Compared to those with no drug exposure, children with prenatal drug exposure other than cocaine experienced greater sleep problems (mean [SD], 5 [4.93] vs 7.7 [4.85], p = .026). Prenatal nicotine exposure was a unique predictor of sleep problems (R2 = .028, p = .048). Early sleep problems predicted later sleep problems (all p’s <.01). Together, these preliminary findings suggest possible neurotoxic sleep effects that persist over time. Larger studies, however, need to be conducted that better control for potential postnatal confounding factors.
doi:10.1080/15402000903190108
PMCID: PMC2766926  PMID: 19787489

Results 1-5 (5)