The relationship among self, peer, and adult perceptions of competence in emotionally disturbed children in residential treatment

Holly Shore Katz, Fordham University


The purpose of the study was to clarify the inconsistencies in the literature regarding the perceived competencies and self-worth of emotionally disturbed children. Some studies report that these children's self-perceptions are poor and reflect their troubled emotional state. Other findings indicate that these children perceive themselves positively, which may be a defense against low self-concept or a reflection of cognitive limitations. Using the Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC), the perceived competencies and self-worth ratings of 72 8-14-year old emotionally disturbed boys in residential treatment were investigated. The children's self-perceptions were compared to a normative sample and to their teachers', therapists', child-care workers' and peers' perceptions of them. Additionally, in order to identify whether distortions in children's self-perceptions were related to cognitive limitations, the children's intelligence and achievement were examined. Children's ratings of their competence and their self-worth were found to be significantly higher than normals on four out of six domains. Children's perceived competence scores were also significantly higher than adults' ratings of their competence on the domains of social acceptance and scholastic competence. The accuracy of children's perceived competencies (compared to adult ratings) was found not to be associated with children's intelligence or achievement. In regard to differences among adults' ratings of children's competence, child-care workers' ratings of the children's behavioral conduct and physical appearance were significantly lower than therapists' and teachers' ratings. No other significant differences were found among adults' ratings of the children's competence. The results regarding the children's exaggerated self-perceptions are discussed in terms of emotional defense strategies. The findings regarding differences between child-care workers' and other adult groups' perceptions of the children are discussed in terms of the child-care workers' role with children. Clinical applications of the study and future research directions are suggested.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Shore Katz, Holly, "The relationship among self, peer, and adult perceptions of competence in emotionally disturbed children in residential treatment" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9324628.