Psychological Reports, 1975, 37, 183-189. @ Psycho!ogical Reports 1975
PARENTS' A N D TEACHERS' PERCEPTIONS OF PERSONALITY CHARACTERISTICS OF CHILDREN SELECTED FOR CLASSES FOR THE LEARNING DISABLED EDWARD HAMPE University of Loui~villeSchool of Medicine
Summary.-Clinical observation of children in classes for learning disabled raises the suspicion that children are selected for such a class not only because of their learning problems but also because they are regarded as hard to manage. Evidence from this study of 43 disabled children suggests that their teachers ( n = 8 ) and their parents focus not only on academic performance but also on activity level, impulse control, anention span, and freedom from distractibility in nominating children for such classes. Moreover, these teachers did discriminate emotionally dismrbed children from learning disabled children.
Among the folklore thac experienced clinicians share with each other is the strong suspicion that children with learning disabilities are selected for placement in special classes because they are hard to manage in a regular classroom. Clinicians and ceachers both point out that the number of learning disabled children is far larger than those who populate special classes. Moreover, comprehensive evaluation of each potential candidate is beyond the financial reach of most school systems; and as a result, the regular classroom ceachers' recommendations are often given great weight in the decision-making process. Hence, the purpose of the current study was: given teachers' judgment as the primary diagnostic screening device, what are the personality characteristics of children who are nominated for, and placed in, classes designed to handle learning disabilities?
METHOD Sab jects The subjects were drawn from the 74 children who were enrolled in classes for learning disabled children of an urban midwest school system during the first semester of academic year 1971-72. The policy of the Board of Education required thac data reflective of a child's personality be collected only with the parents' written permission, which was given to us by 43 parents. Characteristics of the children as a group and of the 43 children on whom we have data are presented in Table 1. The racial composition of both the total population and the project sample mirrors that of the general population. Sex distribution does not. While the project sample exactly matches the population of learning disabled children from which it was drawn, neither group reflects the sex distribution of the general population. As seems always to be the case in such classes, boys are grossly over-represented, in chis instance by a ratio
of almost 4 to 1. The age distribution of the population and the project sample are quite similar, with children aged 8 through 10 yr. comprising a majority in both groups. The small number of children aged 5 through 7 yr. probably reflects the fact that a central symptom of learning disability is the failure to master subject matter, which failure becomes more evident and more alarming only as the child gets older. The small number of children aged 11 through 13 yr. may be related to movement of successfully treated children back into a regular classroom and to the social promotion of those children who continue to grow in stature if not in their ability to learn. TABLE 1 PERCENTSOF SAMPLESSHOWING DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS Learning Disabled Population Sample
Sex Male Female Race White Black IQ GO- 69 7079 8089 9099 10L109 110-1 19 120-129 Age (yr.)
6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Many of these children were placed in a class without benefit of a psychological evaluation. As a result, IQs are available on only 51 of the 74 children. These data are presented in Table 1. Noteworthy is the fact that for the total population, children with IQs in the lower three ranges are somewhat overrepresented relative to the general population, while children in the upper two ranges are under-represented. Of the 43 project children, IQs were available for 30. Among these children the IQ range 80-89 is over-represented, and the range 70-79 is under-repre-
ADULTS' PERCEPTIONS OF CHILD'S PERSONALITY
sented, relative to the total group of learning disabled children. Means and standard deviations for the total population were as follows: Full Scale IQ = 93.2, 2 = 14.86; Verbal IQ = 91.2, u = 14.53; Performance IQ = 96.3, u = 15.45. For the project children, values are: Full Scale IQ = 93.1, a = 14.86; Verbal IQ = 91.8, CY = 15.86; Performance IQ = 95.5, CT = 15.14. Thus the project sample is reasonably representative of this population of disabled children. At the time that the present study was conducted, two groups of children were available with which our disabled sample could be compared; a group of phobic children and a group of children drawn from the general population. The 64 phobic children were patients in a psychotherapeutic research project (Miller, Barrett, Hampe, & Noble, 1972). They ranged in age from 6 to 15 yr., and each child showed significant clinical disturbance. Detailed diagnostic procedures are reported in that paper. The data from the general population of children came from a group of 64 children who were matched to the phobic population on the basis of age, sex, race, and socio-economic status (Miller, Hampe, Barrett, & Noble, 1971). Instrrmz.ents
The Louisville Behavior Checklist contains 163 Yes-No statements which encompass the entire range of normal and deviant child behavior. The items are written in non-technical language such that a parent with a sixth-grade education can fill out the instrument. A factor analysis based on a sample of 263 male children referred to an outpatient clinic yielded eight factor scales (Miller, 1967a, 1967b). Three additional scales have since been developed (Miller, Barrett, Hampe, & Noble, 1971 ) . Data representing the general population have been obtained from a sample of 236 male and female children (Miller, Hampe, Barrett, & Noble, 1971). The School Behavior Checklist is a teacher checklist which contains 96 items covering a wide range of classroom behavior. Factor analysis based on a sample of 5,373 children yielded six factors, five which were converted to scales (Miller, 1972). In the Louisville Behavior Checklist are 11 scales: ( 1 ) Infantile Aggression (IA ) : Egocentric, emotionally demanding and interpersonally belligerent behavior; ( 2 ) Hyperactivity t HA) : Impulsive and constant motion involving both large and small muscles; ( 3 ) Antisocial (AS) : Illegal and destructive behavior where the main thrust is against property and persons; ( 4 ) Social Withdrawal ( S W ) : Reluctance to interact with others, and a preference for social isolation and uninvolvement; ( 5 ) Fear ( F R ) : General anxiety in the presence of many objects with special concern over sleeping, death, and the inability to venture forth alone; ( 6 ) Sensitivity ( S N ) : Subjective sense of "unlikeableness" combined with a tendency to cope with stress by a combination of somatizing and
impulsive, immature, and rivalrous behaviors; ( 7 ) Academic Disability ( A D ) : Specific deficits in academic skill and abilities commonly associated with failure to learn; (8) Immaturity ( I M ) : Both social and physical processes such as babyishness, dependency, whining, slow physical growth, and poor coordination; ( 9 ) Normal Irritability ( N I ) : Noxious but unalarming behaviors that occur in at least 25% of the general population; ( 10) Rare Deviancy ( R D ) : Unusual behavior that occurs in less than 1% of the general population; ( 1 1 ) Prosocial (PS) : Highly valued behaviors and attitudes. Five scales comprise the School Behavior Checklist: ( 1) Low Need Achievement (LNA) : A bipolar scale which at the pathological pole reflects low motivation, failure to master difficult tasks, and a defeatist attitude. Prosocial items load negatively on this scale; ( 2 ) Aggression ( A G G ) : Active and passive behaviors emitted with the intention of causing pain, damage, or loss to others and occurring in a situation which should not elicit such actions; ( 3 ) Anxiety ( A N X ) : Behaviors reflecting both social withdrawal and manifest anxiety; ( 4 ) Academic Disability ( A D ) : Specific deficits in academic skill and ability; ( 5 ) Extraversion (EXT) : Outgoing friendly behaviors and self-centered and attention-getting behavior. Parents of the 43 learning disabled children completed and returned the Louisville Behavior Checklist during November of the school year, immediately after which the child's special class teacher completed the School Behavior Checklist. Eight teachers were involved in completing the checklists, there being eight special classes scattered throughout the school system.
Statistical Procedzwes Means and standard deviations were computed for each scale for the learning disabled, phobic, and general population groups. Differences were tested by univariate F. Next, a multiple discriminant analysis (Cooley & Lohnes, 1962) was computed to discriminate the groups. Cooley and Lohnes' procedure was modified following a suggestion by Porebski (1966) that the normalized coefficients be scaled to unit length and variance. RESULTS Table 2 presents the means and standard deviations for each scale for the learning disabled, phobic, and general population groups. F tests indicated that for every scale except School Aggression, means were significantly different. For both the disabled and phobic samples, all other means were higher than the general population except for the Prosocial scale which was lower in both clinical groups, and Extraversion on which the phobic sample was lower than both the learning disabled and general populacion samples. The discriminant analysis yielded two factors, and each subject's position vis-a-vis the factors is plotted in Fig. 1. From the data in Table 3 one can see
ADULTS' PERCEPTIONS OF CHILD'S PERSONALITY TABLE 2 SCALEMEANS, STANDARDDEVIATIONS,AND UNIVARIATE PS FOR LEARNING DISABLED, PHOBIC,AND GENERAL POPULATIONS Scales
Phobic M SD
Louisville Behavior Checklist 57.65 Infantile Aggression 58.18 Hyperactivity 58.25 Antisocial Social Withdrawal 54.70 57.56 Sensitivity 56.16 Fear AcademicDisability 69.67 Immaturity 62.46 55.18 Normal Irritability 0.70 Rare Deviance 44.56 Prosocial School Behavior Checklist Low Need Achievement 56.85 Aggression 57.19 Anxiety 53.98 Academic Disability 61.91 Extraversion 50.56
14.63 10.72 16.72 9.81 12.12 15.14 11.76 15.09 9.48 1.01 14.09
60.95 57.30 55.48 62.92 64.63 73.08 55.14 58.75 56.61 1.84 43.09
15.01 13.14 16.28 13.39 17.12 21.22 10.97 15.10 10.31 1.45 14.54
49.11 49.20 48.94 48.52 49.50 49.91 49.63 49.17 48.16 0.08 55.27
7.77 8.19 8.06 9.42 9.78 7.67 10.98 9.63 9.61 0.27 14.08
14.66 12.13 6.58 26.79 20.07 36.45 42.41 14.85 13.09 47.56 13.35
8.38 12.57 10.75 7.51 11.87
58.75 54.14 71.52 51.93 39.73
9.55 11.49 13.59 10.18 15.52
48.84 51.44 49.59 48.28 49.31
9.11 10.37 10.07 8.67 11.28
20.77 3.31 61.58 30.23 11.85
General M SD
General Populolion Learning Dieobilily Phobic
FIG. 1. Position of each child on the two factors
that Factor 1 is primarily an anxiety dimension, the phobic sample being clearly more anxious than the other two. Faccor 2 appears to be an efficiency of academic functioning/maturity dimension, on which children from the general population are described as behaving in achieving, goal-directed, age-appropriate, and socially rewarded ways. By contrast, the learning disabled group is composed of children whose activity level is very high and whose energy expenditure is large, but whose actions are random rather than goal-directed, infantile rather than age-appropriate, socially disapproved rather than socially approved, and whose actions result in little academic accomplishment. The phobic children are distributed more or less evenly along this dimension. TABLE 3 MULTIPLEDISCRIMINANT ANALYSISOF SCORESON CHECKLISTSCALES Scales
Normalized Coefficients I I1
Standardized Coefficients 1 I1
Louisville Behavior Checklist Infantile Aggression Hyperactivity Antisocial Social Withdrawal Sensitivity Fear Academic Disability Immaturity Normal Irritability Rare Deviance Prosocial School Behavior Checklist Low Need Achievement Aggression Anxiety Academic Disability Extraversion Discriminant Scores: Disabled = -1.40, 20.59; Phobic = 4.85, 20.62; General Population = -.50, 17.63. Percent of Trace: Factor 1 = 70.79; Factor 2 = 29.21. Multiple F: Factor 1 = 10.89, Factor 2 = 7.15, p < ,001.
While the 43 children who composed the present learning disabled sample are a diverse group on all of the characteristics measured in this study, a modal child can be described. This chiId is white, male, 8 co 9 yr. old, and has an IQ in the low 90s. He is far more immature, impulsive, and random in his activities than are his agemates. H e is about 2 yr. behind academically. He is not anxious nor is he aggressive in the sense of being deliberately antisocial and de-
ADULTS' PERCEPTIONS OF CHILD'S PERSONALITY
linquent. The last two observations are important since a majority of childhood psychopathology is manifest either as an inhibitory or an aggressive disorder. Hence, teachers effectively discriminated the learning disabled children from those who were emotionally disturbed. This finding is supported by Meier ( 1971) who found that teachers can accurately identify children who are learning disabled. The characterization of such a child as immature, random in his activity, and distractible raises an intriguing diagnostic question. Are there large numbers of such children who are not infantile, hyperactive, distractible, etc. and who therefore are not selected for special classes because their quiet behavior causes no problem to a reguIar classroom teacher? Or is it that the vast majority OF these children are generally immature and undercontrolled? The answer to this question depends in large measure on one's definition of a learning disabled child and on the procedures used for identifying such a child. This study suggests that, when teachers' judgment provides the primary screening, the hard to manage non-learner is likely defined as the "typical" learning disabled child. REFERENCES COOLEY,W., & LOHNES, P. Multivariate procedures for the behavioral sciences. New York: Wiley, 1962. MEIER, J. Prevalence and characteristics of learning disabilities found in second grade children. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 1971, 4, 1-21. MILLER, L. Dimensions of psychopathology in middle childhood. Psychological Reports, 1967, 21, 897-903. ( a ) MILLER, L. Louisville Behavior Checklist for males, 6 1 2 years of age. Psychological Reports, 1967, 21, 885-896. (b) MILLER,L. School Behavior Checklist: an inventory of deviant behavior for elementary school children. Journal o f Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1972, 38, 134144. MILLER,L., BARRET?, C., HAMPI?, E., & NOBLE, H. Revised anxiery scales for the Louisville Behavior Checklist. Prychological Reports, 1971, 29, 503-511. MILLER, L., BARREIT, C., HAMPE, E., & NOBLE, H. Comparison of reciprocal inhibition, psychotherapy, and waiting list control for phobic children. Journal o f Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1972, 79, 269-279. MILLER,L., HAMPE, E., BARRE=, C., & NOBLE, H. Children's deviant behavior within the general population. lournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1971, 37, 16-22, POREBSKI,0. Discriminating and canonical analysis of technical college data. British Journal o f Mathematicd and Statistical Psychology, 1966, 19 (Part 2 ) , 215-236.
Accepted May 12, 1975.