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Distinguishing Serious and Playful Fighting by Children with Learning Disabilities and Nondisabled Children

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The ability to distinguish serious from playful fighting by two groups of children with learning disabilities (LD) (mean age=9.3 and 11.8 years) and non-LD children (mean age = 10.1 years) was examined. Children with LD were generally able to make this distinction, with older children being more accurate. However, the performance of children with LD was not as high as that of non-LD children: they used a smaller range of criteria ; some criteria were used significantly less ; and they were much more likely not to give any reason for the judgements made. On the other hand, the order in frequency of those criteria cited was similar for both non-LD children and children with LD. Physical actions of the participants, and inference about actions and/or intent were the most frequently cited criteria. These findings indicate that although children with LD use fewer social cues, and are less accurate in making judgements about the nature of behavioural episodes, the acquisition of the meaning of particular cues may follow the same sequence as for non-LD children. Possible delays in the social cognitive development of children with LD, and their implications for the social adjustment of these children, are discussed.
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Keywords: Disability; learning difficulties; play; roughand-tumble; social behaviour; social cognition

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Sheffield Hallam University, U.K., 2: Goldsmiths College, University of London, U.K.

Publication date: September 1, 1999

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