Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Voelker, Sylvia,


Psychology, Clinical.




The interest in the present study was on examining the relationship between children's socio-emotional problems and visualspatial skills. Thirty-three male and female children from 9 to 14 years of age participated: 11 with nonverbal learning disabilities (NLD), 11 with verbal learning disabilities (VLD), and 11 psychiatric controls. Participants were compared on their ability to decode nonverbal expressions of emotion as measured by the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy Scale (DANVA; Nowicki & Duke, 1989). Subjects were also compared on a measure of self-esteem, the Piers-Harris Children's Self Concept Scale (PHCSCS; Piers & Harris, 1984) and on a self-report measure of emotional adjustment, the Personality Inventory for Youth (PIY; Lachar & Gruber, 1995). Comparisons of parental report of emotional adjustment were made using the Personality Inventory for Children-Revised (PIC-R; Lachar, 1982). The social skills of fifteen children, five from each group, were directly examined in a structured free-play setting. Peer interaction behavior was coded by trained raters blind to study methodology. Analysis of the DANVA results indicated that children in the NLD group demonstrated significantly lower rates of accuracy than did children in the VLD and control groups in decoding facial expressions and body gestures which conveyed the emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, and fear $(p<.05).$ Comparison of behavior rating scale scores did not indicate significant differences between groups in terms of self-esteem and emotional adjustment. In general, children reported far fewer concerns and symptoms reflecting emotional disturbance and developmental/cognitive delay than did their parents and demonstrated a significantly more defensive reporting style $(p<.05).$ Direct observations in a free-play setting revealed that children with nonverbal learning disabilities engaged in more isolative play than controls and showed a trend toward emitting fewer adaptive peer interaction behaviors than did comparison children. Findings are discussed in terms of Rourke's (1989) model which suggests associations between impairment in visualspatial skills and the decoding of nonverbal emotion cues which may ultimately lead to impairment in social skills.Dept. of Psychology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1997 .P475. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 59-08, Section: B, page: 4480. Adviser: Sylvia Voelker. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1997.