Prevalence of EBD (Emotional and Behaviour Difficulties) in Korean children and associations with environmental factors : the "situation-specificity" of EBD
In the socio-ecological perspective, human behaviour is regarded as determined by the characteristics of an individual, the characteristics of his/her environment and their reciprocal interactions. This perspective assumes that situational factors play a significant part in these interactions. The present study was based on this perspective and sought to investigate environmental factors associated with EBD (emotional and behavioural difficulties). It aimed to provide evidence of the need to take EBD seriously in Korea and to find out environmental factors in families and schools which are associated with EBD. The low agreement usually found between parents' and teachers' ratings of children's EBD has been explained in terms of the 'situation-specificity' of EBD. Another aim was, therefore, to explore the extent of the situation-specificity of EBD. Two studies were carried out. The first study was to investigate the prevalence rate of EBD through an epidemiological approach in Korean primary school children and to examine the relationships of EBD to structural factors in family and school. The second study examined relationships of EBD to family and classroom psychosocial functioning in conjunction with the exploration of the low agreement between parents' and teachers' ratings. There were 840 children aged from 7 to 12 in the first study and 448 12-year-old children in the second study. Children's behaviour was rated by their parents and teachers using Rutter's Child Behaviour Questionnaire (CBQ) in the first study, using a Korean version of CBQ in the second study. Family functioning was assessed by children and their mothers using a Korean version of Family Adaptability and Cohesion Evaluation Scale-III. Classroom functioning was assessed by children and their teachers using a Korean short version of Classroom Environment Scale. The Korean versions of CBQ, FACES-III and CES were developed in the pilot study for the second study. A significant number of Korean children were screened as having EBD: 29% with English cut-off points, 17% with Korean cut-off points. However, children with EBD pervasively in both settings were relatively few: 4.3% and 2.1% respectively. More boys showed EBD than girls. EBD was associated with children's academic achievements, existence of siblings, family style, fathers' education, parents' involvement in their child's education, and class size. EBD tended to be higher with lower levels of family cohesion, adaptability and classroom interpersonal relationships; and the relationships appeared to be stronger when EBD was severe or environmental functioning was extreme. However, no relationship was found between EBD and classroom control. Teachers' behaviour ratings were more consistently and highly related to family functioning as well as classroom functioning in comparison with mothers' ratings. This finding supports the concept of open systems, which assumes that what happens in one context may affect behaviour in other systems, and the view that there may be some continuity across situations as well as some specificity to a certain situation in children's behaviour. Furthermore, this finding calls into question a strong version of situationspecificity in regard to the low agreement between teachers' and parents' behaviour ratings. It might be due partly to the difference in the validity of ratings rather than due only to the 'situation-specificity' of EBD. The possibility of higher validity of teachers' ratings was also found in the first study: the percentage of children who were identified as having EBD on CBQ and as needing professional help was much higher by teachers than parents. Compared with adults, children's perceptions of environmental functioning were more consistently and highly associated with EBD. This finding may suggest that how children perceive their environment is as important for their emotional and social development as the actual functioning. Children with EBD would like their families to be more cohesive than non-EBD children. This study leads to further questions about the validity of FACES-III and CES as instruments to assess family and classroom functioning in Korea. The necessity of investigating whether there are other aspects of family and classroom psychosocial functioning which are more related to children's EBD than the affective and control aspects was also suggested. In addition, the results indicate the importance of examining the threshold of EBD when an instrument is used in different cultures. This study also underlines the need to examine environmental factors associated with EBD jointly in both family and school settings.