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Parent-Mediated Interventions and the Effects of Maternal Sensitivity on Joint Attention Skills and Social Responsiveness in Young Children with Autism Ann M. Mastergeorge & Chandni Parikh Family Studies and Human Development, University of Arizona. Method. Background.

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Parent-Mediated Interventions and the Effects of Maternal Sensitivity on Joint Attention Skills and Social Responsiveness in Young Children with Autism
  • Ann M. Mastergeorge &Chandni Parikh
  • Family Studies and Human Development, University of Arizona



  • A path model in Mplus was analyzed for changes in children’s joint attention and maternal sensitivity scores pre-and post-intervention.
  • There were direct positive effects of the intervention between maternal sensitivity
  • (β = .43, p <.05), joint attention (β = .57, p < .01), and child involvement (β = .67, p < .05) were found pre-and post-intervention.
  • There were no indirect effects of child involvement on joint attention post-intervention.
  • However, child involvement did significantly influence maternal sensitivity post-intervention
  • (β = .21, p < .05).
  • A total sample of (N=14) mother-child dyads completed a 16-week parent-mediated intervention.
  • Children were diagnosed with autism using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale (ADOS; Lord, 2002).
  • 3 females and 11 males with chronological ages ranging from 20.2 to 44.1 months (M= 32.84, SD= 6.58).
  • Mental ages of children ranged from 14 to 51 months (M= 24.13, SD= 10.98).

Young children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders often have deficits in joint attention and subsequent language development. Parent-mediated interventions aim for parent and child engagement in targeted activities designed to enhance repeated opportunities for reciprocity in every day interactions.

Mother-child interactions that are characterized by sensitivity, synchrony, and responsivityinfluence social competency that allow children with autism opportunities to initiate and respond to functional communication

(Aldred et al., 2012; Siller & Sigman, 2002).

The positive outcomes of parent-mediated interventions are likely mediated by the quality of the parent-child interactions

(Dolev et al., 2009; Rogers et al., 2012). These interventions provide learning opportunities for young children with autism to develop pivotal skills in turn-taking and social reciprocity through the dyadic interactions between the mother and the child (Vaughan Van Hecke et al., 2012).


Child’s Joint Attention Pre-Intervention

Child’s Joint Attention Post-Intervention





This study contributes to our understanding of targeted parent-mediated interventions: maternal sensitivity and children’s joint attention behaviors change significantly over the course of the intervention.

Parents of young children with autism can be powerful mediators of change in dyadic engagement: not only for their own behaviors in interactions, but also influence significant bidirectional effects during the 16-week intervention.

Important policy implications for engaging stakeholders: Agencieswho fund early intervention programs need to understand the important and pivotal role parents play in evidence-based parent-mediated interventions.

Child’s Involvement Pre-Intervention






Maternal Sensitivity Pre-Intervention

Maternal Sensitivity Post-Intervention


The purpose of this study was to examine changes in maternal sensitivity and child joint attention skills during the parent-mediated joint attention intervention.

Model fit: 2 (df = 12) = 62.34, p < .001; CFI = 1.00; RMSEA = 0.00 (.000 - .001).

*p < .05. **p < .01.