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Title: Self-cognitions and emotional and behavioural difficulties in primary school aged children with special educational needs
Author: Goldwater, Naomi
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2001
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It is estimated that nationally, some twenty percent of the school population will have Special Educational Needs (SENs) at some point in their school career, where they will have a learning difficulty requiring special educational provision. Recently, researchers have begun to consider the emotional and behavioural functioning of children who fall within the category of SENs and a range of studies have clearly shown that these children have an increased risk of developing emotional and behavioural difficulties. This thesis investigates the self-cognitions of children with SENs, who due to their academic difficulties are proposed to be particularly prone to developing 'schemas'- or generalized core beliefs - of incompetence and low self worth. It examines whether these children, when compared to a control group of children not on the SEN register, show evidence of schemas about themselves that are specific to failure and incompetence, and whether they exhibit lower self-perceptions of their competence. In addition, the mechanisms involved in making children with SENs more susceptible to developing emotional and behavioural difficulties are examined. It is proposed that a particular aspect of their vulnerability is linked to their self-cognitions, and it is predicted that self-cognitions will mediate the relationship between SENs and emotional and behavioural difficulties. Different methodologies have been proposed for measuring schemas. This study utilises an incidental memory task previously used by Hammen and Zupan (1984), based on the hypothesis that a schema about the self stored in memory guides the selection, encoding and retrieval of information about the self, so that self-descriptive adjectives consistent with the schema are recalled better than schema-irrelevant adjectives. One hundred children aged between 8 and 11 years old were tested in their primary schools. Children were divided into four groups, defined by two variables: Whether the child had SENs and whether the child was presented with a schema activation task. In the schema activation condition before the incidental memory task, children were required to complete a challenging educational task which was intended to activate schemas of incompetence. In the non-activation condition, children were not given the educational task. In addition, children were administered the Self-Perception Profile for Learning Disabled Students and two subtests from the WISC-III-UK, Vocabulary and Block Design. Teachers of participating children completed a brief behavioural screening questionnaire, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and children's results on the School Attainment Test (SATs) were obtained from the school. Results indicated that children with SENs evidenced more emotional and behavioural problems, lower scores on Vocabulary and Block Design subtests of the WISC-III-UK, lower scores on academic attainment tests and lower self-perceptions of their Reading competence and Spelling competence than children without SENs. No differences, however, were found between the valence of words recalled by children with and without SENs on an incidental recall task, suggesting that children with SENs did not show evidence of schemas more specific to failure and incompetence than children without SENs. Children's scores on the Vocabulary subtest of the WISC-III-UK acted as a mediator, explaining some of the relationship between SENs and emotional and behavioural difficulties. The results were discussed in relation to the schema and self-concept literature. Methodological limitations of the research were considered, as well as theoretical and clinical implications.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available