The effect of three interventions on the self-esteem, behaviour and other affective variables for a group of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties in a local authority residential special school

Ogier, Robert

September 2001

Thesis or dissertation

© 2001 Robert Ogier. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This thesis investigates the effect of three separate interventions of social skills, cooperative learning and self-talk (positive self-referent verbal statements - PSRVS) on the self-esteem, behaviour and other affective variables on a small group of children in a Local Education Authority residential special school who have emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD). The study examines two main research questions: What impact do three different types of intervention have on the children's self-rated self esteem and behaviour as observed in a free-time session. Secondly, what impact do the three interventions have on the children's self-rated locus of control, self-rated peer relationships, overt self-esteem and overt behaviour as rated by teachers and care staff.

The first chapter introduces definitions of self-esteem and emotional and behavioural difficulties and the significance of the study. The prognosis for children with emotional difficulties and the dearth of research is then discussed. The focus of the study is explained and the two key research questions are stated.

Chapter two consists of three main sections. The first section examines the history of the classification of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties and is followed by a discussion on the problems of the definition of these children. The second section examines the history of the concept of self, followed by the theoretical importance of the self-concept. The third section examines the evidence for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties having low self-concept.

Chapter three is the literature review and is divided into three main sections, social skills training, co-operative teaming and cognitive behavioural interventions. Each section examines in turn the rationale, definitions and historY of the three interventions. A discussion of the theories of social competence and social skills are also included.

Chapter four examines the value of multiple interventions and multiple measurements for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, contending that it is unwise to employ a single intervention, or a single set of assessment measures-we need a variety. Initially, we examine the problems encountered in the measurement of the affective states of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties due to multiple definitions and unsatisfactory descriptions of their characteristics. We then examine the utility of rating scales, followed by the theoretical problems associated with the measurement of self-esteem. Whether children with emotional and behavioural difficulties actually do have low self-esteem, or whether they have what is termed 'positive illusory bias' or 'false-self behaviour' in reporting and assessment is then examined. Problems encountered when trying to access the false self are discussed.

Chapter five describes the methodology employed in the current study whereby each self-contained intervention was sequentially applied in order to ascertain the effects on the children's self-esteem, locus of control, peer relationships, overt self-esteem, and overt behaviour. After a small pilot study all children in both the experimental and comparison groups rated their self-esteem, completed a measure of their locus of control and a measure of who they would like to 'play with' and 'work with'. Teachers and care-staff rated the children's overt behavioural self-esteem and their overt emotional and behavioural disturbance. All these measures were obtained for both experimental and comparison groups before and after each intervention and at a four month follow-up. Each intervention lasted for thirty minutes, three mornings a week for a total of approximately seven weeks. Teacher aides carried out behavioural observations during interventions and edible reinforcers (sweets) were given for compliance. The comparison group received the same average level of edible reinforcers but these were not given contingent upon their performance.

A baseline of the experimental group's 'naturalistic' behaviours in a controlled free time setting was obtained. This occurred every Friday afternoon and lasted for thirty minutes and took place throughout the duration of the three interventions in order to provide a measure of appropriate peer interaction.

In chapter six the results of the research questions are addressed in turn commencing with the results of global self-esteem for the fourteen children in the experimental and comparison groups. The lie scores are then presented. This is followed by the graphs of behavioural observations on the experimental group (only) that took place on each Friday afternoon, monitoring and recording 'positive', 'negative' and 'alone' social behaviours in a free-time half-hour session. The results for locus of control, the peer preferences questionnaire, Coopersmith's Behaviour Rating Form for overt self-esteem. and finally the results of Rutter's B2 Behaviour Questionnaire are presented. Both the experimental and comparison group completed all measures stated above at pre-test, after the first social skills intervention '1', after the second co-operative learning intervention '2', after the third intervention '3' and at a four-month follow-up '4'. Overall the findings provide little support for the effects of the three interventions on any of the measures taken with the exception of the behavioural observations taken on Friday afternoons.

The final chapter discusses the findings from the current study in relation to the two research questions and the issues of measurement that pervade the whole study in the light of previous research found in the literature on children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. It is concluded that the existing literature may provide a somewhat erroneous picture of the self-esteem and affective variables of these children. Also the existing literature may provide a somewhat erroneous picture of how easy it is to impact on their self-esteem and other affective variables. The chapter ends with a discussion of the major weaknesses of the current study, areas for future research and implications for practitioners.

Institute for Learning, The University of Hull
Hornby, Garry
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