The socio-cognitive assessment of children with behaviour problems
There is an increasing acceptance within applied psychology of a socio-cognitive model, based on the belief that social behaviour is determined by expectations and beliefs and is under the control of mediating processes such as self-concept or reflective ability. Within this model children with behaviour problems are assumed to have maladaptive beliefs and expectations and to be deficient in appropriate skills. Treatment of such children is directed at changing the mediating cognitions. The research reported examined four components of the model thought to be of especial clinical relevance for educational psychologists. These were social problem solving skills, self-concept, attributions for educational success and failure and good and bad behaviour, and perceptions of potentially stressful situations. Within each area the performance of a group of non-problem children was studied to examine the effects of age, sex and ability on children's responses. In addition two groups of problem children, both from special educational settings, were compared with the non-problem chldren to determine the extent to which maladjusted children show systematic differences in mediating structures, and whether existing assessment techniques can contribute to an appropriate clinical appraisal. Differences between problem and non-problem groups were found in all four areas but the pattern of differences did not provide unqualified support for the existence of general mediational deficits. Such deficits were thought to be more specific than generally assumed. Existing measures in all areas were found to be problematic. The implications of these findings for the assessment of problem behaviour and for a model of maladjustment behaviour were considered.