Assessing theory of mind, affective understanding and reflective functioning in primary school age children
The goal of this thesis was to address the problem of the paucity of measures for assessing the socio-cognitive abilities of primary school-aged children by presenting three such measures and their coding manuals, the Happ?'s Strange Stories (HSS), the Affect Task (AT) and the Child Reflective Functioning Scale (CRFS). The psychometric properties of the three measures were assessed to determine whether they can be used to obtain reliable and valid assessments of children's theory of mind, affective understanding and reflective functioning. The assessment of the psychometric properties of the measures was based on the performance of subsamples of 200 children aged 5-11 recruited from schools and referrals to outpatient Child and Adolescent Mental Health Clinics in London and surrounding areas, on the HSS, AT and CRFS. In addition to the measures of mentalisation, children completed the Child Depression Inventory, the State and Trait Anxiety Scale, Harter's scale of self-esteem, and the Child Attachment Interview. Parents completed the Child Behaviour Checklist and the Child Adaptive Functioning Scale. The findings indicate that: 1) the interrater reliability, internal consistency and test-retest reliability of the measures were generally robust; 2) on the whole, children's socio-cognitive abilities, as measured on all the tasks, showed significant positive correlations of moderate strength with intelligence and expressive language abilities; 3) children with siblings showed significantly better performance on the AT Justification Scale, but contrary to expectations, children living in single parent families performed significantly better on the HSS and CRFS; 4) children's socio-cognitive abilities were implicated in depression, anxiety and adaptive functioning; 5) socio-cognitive abilities in general were associated with attachment security; 6) reflective functioning appears to have a complex relationship with affective and behavioural difficulties, and children with exceptionally low or high reflective functioning appear more likely to have affective and behavioural difficulties.