Social competency and family environment : does social competency moderate the effect of systems maintenance on study skills?
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The development of social competence is a fundamental aspect of children’s adjustment and functioning (Hussong et al. 2005). Children with severe social impairments are at risk for academic and mental health difficulties, and they often require a higher degree of family support beyond childhood compared with nondisabled populations (Green et al., 2000; Tanguay, 2001). Little is known about how severe social competency deficits in children influence the family environment and how the family environment typical of this population influences the school adjustment of these children. The purpose of the study was to 1) examine differences in mothers’ perceptions of family climate among children with social competency disorders (SCD), children with Verbal Learning Disabilities (VLD), and typically developing children (TYP); 2) determine whether social competency moderated the effect of the Systems Maintenance domain of the family environment on a teacher rated school outcome. Participants were 60 children, ages 8 to 14, and their mothers selected from the University of Texas at Austin Assessment of Social Competency in Children with Developmental Disorders Research Project. Data were received from a family climate questionnaire completed by mothers, a behavioral questionnaire completed by teachers, and a social competence measure administered to children. Results found that mothers of children with VLD and SCD viewed their families similarly to mothers of typically developing children and that mothers rated their families within the normal range across almost all aspects of the family environment. The single exception to this was that mothers of children with VLD perceived their family climates to be more openly expressive than mothers of children in the SCD and TYP groups, and that mothers of children in the TYP group perceived their family as more organized compared with the clinical groups. The hypothesis that social competence moderated the effect of the Systems Maintenance domain of the family environment on child study skills was not supported by the data. Lack of differences across groups with respect to almost all aspects of the family climate suggests that mothers in the clinical groups perceived strengths and assets in the family climate similarly to mothers of typically developing children.