Emotional and Behavioral Disorders in Children: Characteristics (page 3)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Dec 8, 2010


Many more children with emotional and behavioral disorders score in the slow learner or mildly retarded range on IQ tests than do children without disabilities. Valdes et al. (1990) reported a mean IQ of 86 for students with emotional and behavioral disorders, with about half of their sample scoring between 71 and 90. The students in a study by Cullinan, Epstein, and Sabornie (1992) had an average IQ score of 92.6. On the basis of his review of research related to the intelligence of children with emotional and behavioral disorders, Kauffman (2005) concluded that “although the majority fall only slightly below average in IQ, a disproportionate number, compared to the normal distribution, score in the dull normal and mildly retarded range, and relatively few fall in the upper ranges”.

Whether children with emotional and behavioral disorders actually have any less real intelligence than do children without disabilities is difficult to say. An IQ test measures how well a child performs certain tasks at the time and place the test is administered. It is almost certain that the disturbed child’s inappropriate behavior has interfered with past opportunities to learn many of the tasks included on the test. Rhode et al. (1998) estimate that the average student actively attends to the teacher and to assigned work approximately 85% of the time, but that students with behavior disorders are on task only about 60% or less of the time. This difference in on-task behavior can have a dramatic impact on academic learning.

Social Skills and Interpersonal Relationships

The ability to develop and maintain interpersonal relationships during childhood and adolescence is an important predictor of present and future adjustment. As might be expected, many students with emotional and behavioral disorders experience great difficulty in making and keeping friends (Cartledge & Milburn, 1995; Gresham, Lane, MacMillan, & Bocian, 1999). The results of a study by Schonert-Reichl (1993) comparing the social relationships of secondary students with behavioral disorders with those of same-age peers without disabilities is typical of much of the published literature on social skills of students with emotional and behavioral disorders. The students with behavioral disorders reported lower levels of empathy toward others, participation in fewer curricular activities, less frequent contacts with friends, and lower-quality relationships than were reported by their peers without disabilities.

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