Reading difficulties and psychosocial problems: Does social information processing moderate the link?
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Children with reading difficulties (RD) are also likely to experience psychosocial problems. However, a significant proportion (30-50%) are indistinguishable, in psychosocial terms, from their typically-achieving (TA) peers. The aim of the current study was to identify aspects of social information processing which serve a protective function for children with RD, in terms of their at-risk status for concomitant psychosocial problems. Method: The sample comprised 42 children (21 with RD, and 21 TA), aged 9-11 years, with 11 boys and 10 girls in each group. A multifactor procedure was used to classify children as RD, based on the inclusionary criteria of teacher selection, and reading achievement below the 25th percentile, as well as several exclusionary criteria. The reading subtests of the WIAT-II, and the KBIT-2 (non-verbal IQ) measures were used to identify the presence of RD according to these criteria. The dependent variable, behavioural symptoms, was assessed using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, which was rated by both parents and teachers. Children (RD and TA) completed measures of theory of mind, understanding emotions in facial expression and tone of voice, attachment style, and affective experience. Results: As expected, RD were correlated with increased levels of psychosocial problems, and poorer theory of mind skills predicted increased psychosocial problems. Consistent with hypotheses, emotion understanding, positive affect, and secure attachment, moderated the link between RD and psychosocial problems. That is, better emotion understanding, more positive affect, and secure attachment status, functioned as protective factors for children in the RD group, but not those in the TA group. Conclusion: The findings are discussed in relation to extant findings, as well as within a risk and protective framework. Finally, strengths and limitations of the current study are described, and implications for psychosocial interventions suggested.