Date of Award

Summer 8-13-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Beverly J. Wilson

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Megan Goldenshteyn

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Lynette Bikos


Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) present with deficits in social communication and social interaction, as well as restricted and repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities. Theory of Mind (ToM) has been identified as a key factor in social development in both typically developing (TD) children and children with ASD. One proposed explanation for the deficits in social development characteristic in ASD is that deficits in ToM, particularly the ability to infer the mental states of self and others, results in impairments in social development. Researchers have found that affect recognition is a precursor in the development of ToM which occurs during early childhood. Researchers have also begun exploring parental factors that may influence affect recognition abilities in TD children and children with ASD. The current study sought to explore the moderating role of parent emotion coaching on the mediating role of affect recognition abilities on ToM in TD and children with ASD. The sample included 17 children ages 3:3 to 6:11 and one of their parents. ToM was measured using a battery of diverse belief and false belief tasks. Affect recognition was measured using the affect recognition subtest of A Developmental Neuropsychological Assessment (Korkman, Kirk & Kemp, 2007). Parent meta-emotion coaching was assessed with a semi-structured meta-emotion interview with the parent (Gottman, Katz, & Hooven, 1996). Results from main analyses did not find significant relations between developmental status and parent meta-emotion, affect recognition abilities, or theory of mind abilities. The moderated mediation model was not supported. Results from ancillary analyses indicated a majority of parents identified their child’s characteristics influenced their meta-emotion philosophies. However, parents of children with ASD were more likely to identify that their child’s characteristics made emotion socialization more difficult. Results indicated affect recognition abilities were positively related to age. Parents’ meta-emotion philosophies about their child’s regulation of emotions were negatively related to children’s overall affect recognition errors. Parent’s meta-emotion philosophies about their child’s regulation of sadness was also negatively related to child sadness recognition errors. Consistent with previous research, results demonstrated a trend of increasing difficulty through the battery of ToM tasks.