The assessment of intention-cue detection skills in children: implications for developmental psychopathology.
A reliable measure of children's skills in discriminating intention cues in others was developed for this investigation in order to test the hypothesis that intention-cue detection skill is related to social competence in children. Videotapes were prepared in which one child provoked another child. The intention of the first child varied across videotapes. The subject's task was to discriminate among types of intentions. Care was taken to ensure that scores on this measure were not confounded by a child's verbal capacity or general discrimination skill. This instrument was administered to 176 children in kindergarten, second grade, and fourth grade, who were identified by sociometric measures as having a peer status as popular, average, socially rejected, or socially neglected. Scores on this measure were found to increase as a function of increasing age, and normal children (popular and average) were found to score more highly than deviant children (neglected and rejected). The errors by deviant children tended to consist of erroneous labels of prosocial intentions as hostile. Also, children's statements about their probable behavioral responses to provocations by peers were found to vary as a function of subjects' perceptions of the intention of the peer causing the provocation, not as a function of the actual intention portrayed by the peer. Sociometric status differences in these responses were also found. These findings were consistent with a hypothesis of a developmental lag among socially deviant children in the acquisition of intention-cue detection skills.
Dodge, KA; Murphy, RR; Buchsbaum, K
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