Perceived emotional competence and emotion appraisal skills in middle childhood in typically developing and behaviourally challenged children.

Meredith, Jacqueline (2009) Perceived emotional competence and emotion appraisal skills in middle childhood in typically developing and behaviourally challenged children. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

This thesis addresses whether children with severe behavioural problems lack emotional competence in key areas and, if so, whether this is reflected in their ability to appraise emotions in others. Self-rated and objectively rated emotional competence of children in mainstream schooling was compared with 20 children aged seven to 11 excluded for severe social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. In Study 1 self-report questionnaires measured affect perception, empathy and expressivity in typically developing (N=203), special educational needs (N=36) and socially, emotionally and behaviourally disordered (N=30) children in mainstream schooling. Younger children were less perceptive of affect than older children and scored lower for cognitive empathy. Boys scored lower in cognitive and affective empathy than girls and were less intimate, and more covert, in their expression of emotion. Special educational needs children appeared less emotionally perceptive than their peers. In Studies 2a and 2b, affect appraisal and the ability to describe emotional change were examined using a new measure employing pictorial representations of children in ambiguous postures and facial representations of emotion. Typical patterns of appraisal of possibly threatening, depressive and innocuous postures were established (N=242). A developmental progression in reasons given for emotional change was seen with older children providing more socially based and mentalising answers than younger children. Study 3 developed an interactive computerised measure to examine the point at which children recognise the emergence of emotion from an interpolation of photographic facial expressions. Eighty-five typically developing children manipulated 26 emotional changes, including emotion/emotion and emotion/neutral transitions and chose a point of uncertainty in the transformation. A significant effect was found for facial representations of fear and anger, indicating a threat detection mechanism in response to emergent emotion. In Study 4 children with severe behavioural problems were compared across all measures with typically developing children from the first three studies. Behaviourally challenged children were deficient in cognitive and affective empathy and exhibited a hostile appraisal bias when assessing ambiguous postures of other children. No deficit was found in the ability to evaluate emotional change and provide age-appropriate reasons. However, anger was dominant in the perception even over fear stimuli when assessing emotional transition. Overall, children excluded from mainstream schooling with severe behavioural problems showed a very different profile to mainstream children with behavioural problems, suggesting a qualitative difference in cognitive functioning that could have a predictive function. This thesis not only supports the premise that severe SEBD children exhibit altered emotional functioning but has developed a series of tests that will have ongoing value in applied research.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A thesis submitted to Middlesex University in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Research Areas:Theses
School of Health and Education > Health & Education
ID Code:6213
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Deposited On:05 Jul 2010 15:53
Last Modified:19 Jul 2014 16:39

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