Assessment of cognitive development in four to eight year old children by means of drawing tasks
The present thesis explores the link between children's drawings and cognitive development. The aim of this study is to investigate the intellectual abilities of the child draughtsman with good depiction skills and to evaluate the merit of the drawing technique in the assessment of conceptual maturity. The standardised Goodenough-Harris Drawing Test (GHDT) of intellectual maturity was administered to 115 children between 4 to 8 years of age against criterion ability measures (Wechsler scales). Its psychometric properties are examined in respect to its norms and scales, its reliability and validity at different age levels and ranges of intelligence. Early theories in the area of pictorial representation were directed towards identifying features characteristic of different developmental periods (Kerschensteiner, 1905; Luquet, 1927/1977). At the same time Piaget and Inhelder (1948/1967) incorporated these stage theories into their model of spatial intelligence. Yet, the recent experimental study of children's drawings has disclosed a number of variables which interfere during the course of production, challenging the view that drawings can be seen as the royal route to access children's concepts. Stage theories are re-evaluated by means of fourteen experimental drawing tasks with various degree of difficulty. The tasks - administered to the same children tested with the standardised instruments -are spatial in nature and have been sampled from two widely researched areas related to the pictorial representation of partial occlusion and of spatial axes (horizontal/vertical). The acquisition of the pertinent spatial concepts by means of drawings is examined, considering competence-deficiency and competence-utilisation accounts of children's performance at different ages. Finally, overall perfomance on spatial tasks is compared with performance on conventional (Wechsler scales) and non-verbal (GHDT) measures of intellectual functioning, considering the optimum method to assess children's abilities by means of drawings. In general, drawing performance is reasonably sensitive to children's level of intelligence, yet the significance of drawing varies at different ages and ranges of IQ. Finally, the establishment of steadfast developmental trajectories falls short in the field of pictorial representation. The variable performance, particularly from the children at intermediate ages, suggests that the stages of intellectual or visual realism should be seen as relative and not as absolute.