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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Comparison of the interpersonal perceptions of the parents of autistic and normal children Kubo, Richard Hidenhiko


The present study sought to examine the relationship between "Early Infantile Autism" and certain parental personality characteristics and family relationships reported in the literature as being associated with childhood schizophrenia. The three factors investigated were the *lack of empathy" and "emotional detachment", "the avoidance of Interpersonal interactions" and the dominance of the wife and submissiveness of the husband, each of which had been reported as characterizing the parents of schizophrenic children. Each of these characteristics was operationally defined and measured within the framework of the Interpersonal System of Personality Diagnosis. Using this method, it was possible to obtain measurements from four hypothesized levels of interpersonal functioning, consisting of how a person presents himself to or is described by others (Level I), his descriptions of himself and significant others (Level II), his fantasy or "projective" perceptions of people (Level III), and his ego ideal (Level V). The data of interpersonal behavior from each of these levels were scored in terms of a circular classificatory system made up of eight Interpersonal variables or ways of interacting (e.g. competitive - exploitive, skeptical - distrustful, cooperative - overconventional, etc). Trigonometric and arithmetic methods were then used to summarize interpersonal behavior at any level into a single point on a diagnostic grid incorporating the eight interpersonal variables. This was made possible by locating this single summary point In terms of a vertical (dominance - submission) and horizontal (hostility - affiliation) axis. As the summary points from each of the four levels were scored in terms of the same eight variables, it was possible to obtain objective measures of the discrepancies evident within or between the different hypothesized levels of functioning. Five hypotheses were formulated in the present study. Hypothesis 1 postulated that as viewed by others (Level I), the mothers would be the dominant members more often in the patient families than in the control families. Hypothesis 2 postulated that the patient parents would show greater disparity than the control parents between their self descriptions (Level II) and their descriptions by others (Level I). The third hypothesis postulated that the patient parents would misperceive the characteristics of their spouses to a greater degree than the control parents at Level II. The fourth hypothesis postulated that the patient parents would show greater disagreement in their descriptions of their child at Level II than the control parents. Hypothesis 5 postulated that the patient parents would, to a greater degree than the control parents, view people In Interpersonal interactions as being hostile and unaffiliative at the level of fantasy. Two groups of parents were utilized. The patient group consisted of six married couples, each having a child who had been accepted into a treatment program for schizophrenic children. Of the six children, five were diagnosed as autistic. The control group consisted of six married couples who had no children who had suffered from prolonged physical or emotional disturbances. Each couple was individually matched against one of the patient couples. Both groups were administered the MMPI, the Interpersonal Check List and the TAT. The results were then transformed into single summary point scores for the various levels of interpersonal functioning and the hypothesized relationships within and between levels tested. Of the five hypotheses formulated, only hypothesis 5 was found to differentiate the two groups at a .05 level of significance or better. The results showed that the patient parents tended to view people in interpersonal situations as being hostile and generally unloving. It was hypothesized that such attitudes might interfere with family functioning and have an adverse effect on relationships with the child. In conclusion, the current Investigation failed to find any widespread differences between a group of parents of autistic children and a group of parents of adequately functioning children.

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