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Investigating and improving processes necessary for socio-emotional functioning in children with behavioural problems

Wells, Amy 2019. Investigating and improving processes necessary for socio-emotional functioning in children with behavioural problems. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Although behavioural problems and antisocial behaviour (ASB) that are established in childhood do not always lead to criminality in later life, they do often persist into adulthood and are associated with a range of costly, negative outcomes. Despite this, existing interventions are limited in their effectiveness. We know that emotion recognition is essential for successful socio-emotional functioning and antisocial individuals often display an impairment in emotion recognition. In addition, the ability to understand the self and to understand others (Theory of Mind; ToM) is important for socio-emotional functioning and an impairment in either is a risk factor for ASB. Furthermore, while lower levels of emotion recognition, ToM and self-esteem have all been implicated in the development of ASB, research has not yet explored the relationship between these three processes and their relationship with behaviour problem severity. The first two chapters of this thesis aimed to examine emotion recognition and ToM (Chapter 2) and emotion recognition and self-esteem (Chapter 3) in children with behavioural problems compared to typically developing controls. The relationship between these processes and any correlation with behavioural problem severity was also explored. Given the relationship between an impairment in emotion recognition and displays of ASB and previous work that has found that emotion recognition training improves behaviour in youth offenders, Chapter 4 investigated whether emotion recognition training delivered to children with behavioural problems reduced their behavioural problems and improved their mental health and wellbeing. We found that, in addition to an impairment in emotion recognition, children with behavioural problems showed lower levels of ToM and self-esteem compared to typically developing controls. Moreover, we found that emotion recognition was significantly positively related to both ToM and self-esteem and all three were significantly inversely related to behaviour problem severity. We found that children who showed an initial impairment in emotion recognition and received a short, computerised emotion recognition training programme showed a significant improvement in negative and neutral recognition and a reduction in problem behaviours, specifically in peer problems, 6 months later. This thesis suggests that targeting emotion recognition, a neuropsychological correlate of ASB, through early intervention represents a relatively easy and efficient way to reduce problem behaviour and improve peer relationships in children.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 18 May 2020
Date of Acceptance: 15 May 2020
Last Modified: 18 May 2020 10:57

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