Graduation Year


Document Type

Ed. Specalist



Degree Granting Department

Psychological and Social Foundations

Major Professor

Linda Raffaele Mendez, Ph.D.

Committee Member

George Batsche, Ed.D.

Committee Member

John Ferron, Ph.D.


Externalizing Disorders, Conduct Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Children, Callous-Unemotional Traits


This research study compared perceptions of family functioning among preadolescent children with behavior difficulties and their primary caregivers. Participants consisted of 29 caregiver-child dyads as well as each child's classroom teacher. Eligibility for the study was based on the child's placement within a self-contained Emotionally Handicapped (EH) or Severely Emotionally Disturbed (SED) classroom in one of three elementary schools within two west coast Florida counties. Data collection included teacher rating scales pertaining to the severity of each child's behavior and the presence of Callus Unemotional (CU) traits in addition to caregiver and child interviews tapping perceptions of family functioning.

Results indicated that caregivers consistently viewed their families as more adaptive and cohesive than did children with a disruptive behavior disorder. These findings are consistent with previous research showing a similar pattern among older adolescents with a disruptive behavior disorder. No relationship was not found between the child's perception of family functioning and CU traits, although it was noted that there was considerable restriction of range on CU traits.

Overall, the results of this study contributes to the existing literature by demonstrating that preadolescents, like their older counterparts, also view their families as less adaptive and cohesive than do their caregivers. Limitations and directions for future research are discussed.