Conflict resolution and development of communication competence in preschool boys with language impairment

Detta är en avhandling från Stockholm : Karolinska Institutet, Department of Women's and Children's Health

Sammanfattning: Children with Language Impairment (LI) have difficulties navigating peer situations, withdraw from social interaction and are at risk for developing further behavioral and socio-emotional problems. Children with LI often forego interactions, in which language and social skills are naturally trained, including conflict management. Conflict resolution is an especially challenging task with heightened emotional intensity, in which behavioral regulation is required to facilitate perspective taking abilities. Reconciliation, i.e. friendly contact between former opponents shortly following conflict termination, is positively associated with subsequent initiation or resumption of developmental peer interaction after a conflict has run its course. The aim of this thesis was to describe conflict behavior between boys with LI and determine possible deviations from conflict progression of boys with typical language development (TL). Unstructured free-play between 11 preschool boys with LI and between 20 preschool boys with TL was examined. Incidents entailing mutual opposition were identified as conflicts, and coded according to a validated system. The interrelations were examined between social interaction (mutual responsive exchanges) prior to conflict in the pre-conflict period, conflict causes, functions and effects of non-affiliative behavior and reconciliatory behavior in the post-conflict period, and social interaction in the succeeding non-conflict period. In Paper I it was established that the boys with TL demonstrate a sequential non-random pattern of conflict progression, with behaviors associated with previous behavioral exchanges within the conflict and directly preceding conflict outbreak. The conflict cause was linked to whether opponents socially interacted in the pre-conflict period, and subsequently related to the category of exhibited reconciliatory strategy in the post-conflict period. Further, the aggressor and the victim initiated reconciliation at similar rates, with the exception of verbal apologies, which were initiated most often by the aggressor. Also verbal apologies were the reconciliatory behavior that was least accepted by opponents. Finally, a higher rate of social interaction between former opponents in the succeeding non-conflict period was positively associated with both social interaction between opponents in the pre-conflict period and reconciliation. The boys with LI reconciled a smaller mean proportion of conflicts (47.3 ± 4.5%) than the boys with TL (63.6 ± 2.0%). This main result was shown in Papers II-IV to stem from two behavioral characteristics within the communicative style of the boys with LI. First, the boys with LI exhibited overt withdrawal and non-assertiveness. The distribution of reconciliatory categories and the rates, at which opponents accept a reconciliatory behavior, were similar between the LI group and the TL group. However, the boys with LI displayed reconciliatory behavior in a smaller share of conflicts than the boys with TL. The boys with LI demonstrated a strong reliance on a reference point in the pre-conflict period in order to attempt reconciliation and functionally reconcile conflicts in similar proportions as the boys with TL. Rather, the boys with LI conducted active withdrawal (left the room) relatively more often than the boys with TL, particularly in conflicts without social interaction in the pre-conflict period. Secondly, the boys with LI often escalated aggressive and emotionally charged behavior and exhibited difficulties concluding these behavioral turns. This lead to the seldom reconciled aberrant caused conflicts, which represented a larger share of LI conflicts than TL conflicts. Aberrant caused conflicts entailed inappropriate behavioral play/protest intensities that without communicative intent escalated to screaming/physical tantrums and thereby hindered the opponent from responding with a behavioral turn. Also, following post-conflict aggression, the boys with LI were unable to overcome, in particular reciprocal and only verbal aggression, and thereafter reconciled a smaller share of these conflicts than the boys with TL. Further, the LI group s most representative non-affiliative behavior, active withdrawal , was less conducive to reconciliation than aggression , the most representative non-affiliative behavior in the TL group. In the succeeding non-conflict period , the boys with LI socially interacted at lower rates than TL boys, deriving mainly from the negative consequences of the LI lower reconciliation rates when social interaction was absent in the pre-conflict period and the larger share of rarely reconciled aberrant caused conflicts . The results indicate that in addition to traditional psycholinguistic remediation, children with LI may benefit from intervention methods that support initiating and maintaining communicational contact in the cases an immediate communicative referent is unavailable, as well as effectively concluding emotionally intensive and aggressive behavioral turns and providing positive experiences of peer interaction.

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