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The role of nonverbal sensitivity in childhood psychopathology

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Abstract

Two samples of boys were compared on their sensitivity to nonverbal communication: boys not in treatment (sampled from elementary school populations) and boys in treatment (sampled from community mental health clinics). Three main decoding tasks assessed the boys' ability to identify, classify, and predict nonverbal displays. Parent and self appraisals on nonverbal sensitivity were also collected. Results indicated that clinic-recruited boys performed less well than school-recruited boys on the three decoding tasks, but there were no significant differences in the self or parent appraisals. Older boys performed better than younger boys on the decoding tasks, but were not differentiated by self or parent appraisals. Further analyses revealed a significant positive correlation between the level of the boys' social incompetence and poor self-control and the number of decoding errors the boys made on the dominant/submissive but not the negative/positive dimension of nonverbal displays. In addition, the interrelationship of the nonverbal skills appeared to differ across clinic- and school-recruited boys. Results are discussed in terms of their relevance for understanding child psychopathology and their implications for child assessment and treatment.

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Russell, R.L., Stokes, J., Jones, M.E. et al. The role of nonverbal sensitivity in childhood psychopathology. J Nonverbal Behav 17, 69–83 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00987009

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