An experiment in the prediction of children's reactions to stress by means of psychological test measures
Rubin, Elihu Z
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I. INTRODUCTION The present study was an experiment to examine the use of two psychological tests, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) and the Rorschach Test in the prediction of children's adjustment to stress. The purpose of this research was to investigate some of the formulations underlying the use of these tests in the diagnosis of personality adjustment. The variations in performance on several test measures were related to the variations in behavioral adjustment to stress of a group of children hospitalized for an operation. II. SURVEY OF THE LITERATURE The literature relvant to the general theory of psychological test measurement was reviewed. In addition, some of the assumptions underlying the use of the WISC and the Rorschach were outlined and discussed. Specific measures derived from these tests were listed and the psychological rationale for each was presented and discussed. Several approaches to the methodology most applicable to validation research were investigated and the conclusions relevant to this study that were drawn suggested an experimental procedure, involving the comparison of individual test scores from the WISC and of sign scores from the Rorschach with a criterion of adjustment defined in behavioral terms. The concept of stress, its use in experimental investigations and its relation to trauma, were presented. The contributions of several authors to the understanding of these two concepts were also reviewed. Finally, previous experimental studies of the use of psychological tests in the prediction of adjustment to stress were critically reviewed. III. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN The general hypothesis was than formulated as: The perfonnance on psychological tests may be used in the prediction of children's reactions to a situation of stress. The proposition was to be tested making use of the measures derived from the WISC and the Rorschach. The general procedure used in both experiments was the same and was presented in detail, including the experimental conditions, the materials used and the nature of the sample. The experimental conditions involved testing of subjects while hospitalized for a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy operation. The subjects were children of both sexes ranging in age from 6 to 14. The method of evaluating the subject's adjustment to the stress situation was presented. The total group of 26 was divided into "adequate" and "less adequate" adjustment groups on the basis of ratings by psychiatrists from a series of observations of the subject's behavior in the total situation. These two groups served as the external criterion of adjustment to stress. A detailed description of the types of behavior shown by each group was also presented. The two groups differed with regard to emotional control, reality and social behavior. Group I, composed of adequately adjusting subjects, showed more control over expression of feelings, were more reality based and were more sociable than the subjects in Group II, who adjusted less adequately. IV. RESULTS The findings on the WISC and on the Rorschach were presented separately, followed by a discussion of the correlations between the test measures derived from each. The general proposition was first tested by examination of the WISC performance. Of the several measures tested, the following scores succeeded in reliably differentiating between adjustment groups: The Full Scale IQ and the Comprehension, Similarities, Vocabulary and Picture Arrangement subtest scores. The subjects in Group II, on the average, scored lower than those of Group I. The relevance of these findings to the assumptions underlying the interpretation of performance on these measures was discussed in relation to the behavior shown while under stress and described by the psychiatrists. Considerable attention was devoted to a discussion of the meaning of the lower IQ found in the less adequately adjusting group. The relation of this finding to the problem of impairment of intellectual functioning under stress was also discussed. The results suggested that the difference in intellectual functioning was at least in part a function of personality traits also contributing to the differences in observed behavior under stress. The remaining subtest scores, as well as the Total Vocabulary Scatter score, were unable to discriminate between adjustment groups. The findings also suggested that the use of the Vocabulary score as a referent point for scatter analysis in children's records be further investigated for validity of interpretation. A similar experiment was done using the Rorschach Test. The measures used in the test of the hypothesis were those scores which have been proposed in general Rorschach theory as giving information on the subject's modes of expression and control of emotions. More specifically, those signs suggested by Klopfer and Kelley as measures of "inner and outer control" and which were included in Davidson's list of adjustment signs were adapted for use in this research. The level of performance on these signs to be expected for the children in this study followed the modifications suggested by Ackerman in her work with the original Davidson list on a group of normal children. These signs were: M>=1; FC + CF + C> c+ Fc + C'; F% 35-60; FC >= CF; FC >= 1; No pure C; and 8+9+10/Rx1OO% 40-60. In addition, a Total Sign Score, based on the sum of the scores on these seven signns was used. Finally, the experience balance was converted into the score M minus Sum C which was also used here. The results of the Rorschach experiment were that of all the signs tested, only one, the FC >= CF sign was able to reliably differentiate between adjustment groups under all conditions. Under particular conditions of time of administration of this test, the sign M >= 1 was also successful in discriminating between groups. The Total Adjustment Score was found to be a reliable indicator of adjustment, but subsequent analysis revealed that this score was almost identical with the FC >= CF score, used alone. Finally, the F% score was noted to approach significance in its ability to differentiate between groups. The remaining Rorschach measures tested failed to discriminate between the two adjustment groups. These findings were discussed in relation to the assumptions underlying the interpretation of these Rorschach signs and in relation to the manifest behavior shown by the subjects under stress. It was considered that the present findings were in confirmation of the general assumptions regarding the FC:CF ratio as an index of maturity of emotional expression and control and the production of M as a sign of a capacity for delay of impulsive activity. These findings were consistent with other experimental investigations of the role of form in Rorschach responses where form and some other determinant are used in combination. The results further indicated that it was possible to find correlations between single signs or ratios and behavior. A study of the intercorrelations between the factors on the WISC and on the Rorschach found to be reliable indicators of adjustment to stress revealed several significant relationships. The FC:CF ratio on the Rorschach showed a moderately high positive correlation with both Comprehension and Vocabulary on the WISC. The M sign on the Rorschach also showed moderate correlations with these two subtests as well as with the Full Scale IQ. All other correlations failed to give evidence of reliable relationships. Conclusions were drawn from these data relevant to the problem of interpretation posed by the finding of a lower IQ in the less adequately adjusting group. In addition, a conclusion was made that the performance on these factors from the two tests reflected similar aspects of personality functioning. V. CONCLUSIONS Several conclusions were drawn from this research study. The results, in general, were in confirmation of the general hypothesis that performance on psychological tests can be used to differentiate between groups of children who differ in their adjustment to a situation of stress. The particular methodology used in the evaluation of adjustment was thought to have contributed a great deal to the understanding of the test measures which were found to be reliable indicators of adjustment. The variation in emotional and social behavior shown by these children was shown to be related to their performance on the tests and this relationship was seen to be along the lines generally hypothesized for several of the test measures. The difference in functioning intelligence between the groups was concluded to be in part an effect of temperamental factors also contributing to differences in adjustment to stress shown by the two groups of subjects. The finding of a lower performance on the Comprehension, Similarities, Vocabulary and Picture Arrangement subtests by the group of subjects who showed less control over emotional behavior, poorer reality judgment and less sociable behavior was concluded to be evidence in confirmation of the assumption that these personality traits are important determiners of performance on these tests. A similar conclusion was reached with regard to the Rorschach results, as being confirmatory of the clinical assumptions with regard to the two measures derived from this test as being correlated with the subject's capacity for mature affective expression (FC:CF) and an inner resource for delay of immediate gratification (M). The present investigation revealed two major areas for further research. These results strongly suggest further study of the validity of the use of the Vocabulary score as a point of reference for scatter analysis in children's records. Further research is also indicated to explore the relation between the temperamental traits found here to contribute to poor adjustment to stress and the role of symbolic behavior in adjustment.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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