Syntactic and semantic complexity, emotional adjustment, and the Thematic Apperception Test: Discourse analysis of adult dyslexics

John Christopher Capozuca, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to determine the relationships between language maturity and emotional adjustment in dyslexic adults. The subjects were a group of adult dyslexics participating in the Comprehensive Learning Program at the Rosa A. Hagin School Consultation Center of Fordham University. The intervention consisted of individualized instruction and social work and vocational support services. Data for study consisted of TAT protocols analyzed from two perspectives: as a measure of social and emotional adjustment and as an index of syntactic and semantic complexity of language. The test was administered twice: pre- and post-intervention. Statistical analyses explored associations between linguistic elements and thematic content in the discourse samples. The performance of the dyslexic subjects on language and emotional measures was also compared with the performance of nondyslexics in several normative samples. A major finding of this study was that significant increases in semantic and emotional maturity became evident after exposure to the enriched language experiences provided by the intervention program. This finding represents the enhanced cognitive and ego functions of the adult dyslexics in the study on posttest. Another major finding of this study was the presence of uniformly low indicators of social and emotional adjustment prior to intervention and uniformly heightened indicators of social and emotional adjustment post-intervention. This finding underscored the deleterious effects on self-esteem dyslexia exerts, as well as renewed feelings of empowerment and self-worth when opportunities for academic success were provided. When post-intervention measures of emotional status were compared with normative data, the emotional adjustment of adult dyslexics more closely approximated that of nondyslexics. In addition, the verbal productivity of adult dyslexics following intervention approached or exceeded that of nondyslexics. It was concluded that the oral narrative discourse of adult dyslexics was characterized by semantic immaturity, and that the disorder represents a severe obstacle to optimal social and emotional adjustment. Finally, post-intervention, subjects exhibited improved linguistic maturity and ego strength.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Educational psychology|Special education

Recommended Citation

Capozuca, John Christopher, "Syntactic and semantic complexity, emotional adjustment, and the Thematic Apperception Test: Discourse analysis of adult dyslexics" (1991). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9123137.