Elaboration of Neuropsychological Evaluation of Children: Structural Analysis of Test Results
Background. Modern neuropsychology is discussing the possibility of combining qualitative and quantitative approaches in the evaluation of cognitive functions. In Russia a battery of tests called "Methods of neuropsychological assessment for children 6-9 years old" (Akhutina et al., 2016) has been proposed; it is based on the Lurian approach to diagnosis and combines qualitative and quantitative approaches to testing. The present paper describes the development of this combined qualitative and quantitative assessment of various groups of cognitive functions in preschool and primary school children. Structural modeling enables us to analyze a possible combination of integral indices of functions that includes the results of both a face-to-face neuropsychological assessment and computerized testing.
Objective. To develop a combined qualitative and quantitative neuropsychological assessment of children, in order to 1) check the structural reliability of integral indicators of various cognitive functions; and 2) confirm the correctness of combining the results of face-to-face and computerized tests.
Design. A sample of 299 children between the ages of 6 and 9 years old (111 preschoolers, 82 first graders, and 106 second graders) underwent a Lurian face-to-face neuropsychological examination adapted for 6-to-9 year-old children, and five tests from the Computerized Neuropsychological Assessment for 6-9 Year-old Children. The five were the “Dots” test, the Schulte Tables, the Cancellation test, the Corsi Tapping Block test, and the Understanding of Similar Sounding Words test. In each of the tests (face-to-face and computerized), key parameters were identified to evaluate various cognitive functions.
Results. A confirmatory factor analysis verified the composition of the neuropsychological indices that were based on the results of the face-to-face neuropsychological assessment. At the same time, when the computer test data were added to the model, the fit indices of the model considerably improved.
Conclusion. The confirmatory factor analysis confirmed the validity of the identification of eight neuropsychological indices that indicate the component processes underlying complex cognitive functions in children: 1) programming and control of voluntary actions (executive functions); 2) serial organization of movements and speech; 3) the processing of kinesthetic information; 4) the processing of auditory information; 5) the processing of visual information; 6) the processing of visual-spatial information; 7) hyperactivity/impulsivity; and 8) fatigue/slowness.
Keywords: Neuropsychological assessment/ development of higher mental functions/ primary school students/ cognitive functions/ face-to-face testing/ computer testing
Neuropsychological Assessment of Difficulties in Reading Spanish: A Cultural-Historical Approach
Background. This paper argues that Cultural-Historical neuropsychology provides a solid theoretical framework for the assessment of reading difficulties.
Objective. The objective of the paper is to discuss how reading process and reading difficulties are perceived through the prism of Cultural-Historical neuropsychology.
Design. This paper is of a theoretical and methodological nature, directed to practice and research in the field of neuropsychology.
Results. This paper provides an outline of the fundamental concepts and principles of Cultural–Historical theory that are relevant to the assessment of reading difficulties. It provides a blueprint for the assessment of difficulties in reading Spanish via a presentation of data on common mistakes and their relationship to neuropsychological factors.
Conclusion. The crucial role of in-school teaching in facilitating students to avoid developing reading difficulties, or to overcome them, is highlighted.
Keywords: Cultural-Historical/ neuropsychology/ assessment/ reading difficulties/ Spanish language
Executive Functions’ Impact on Vocabulary and Verbal Fluency among Mono- and Bilingual Preschool-Aged ChildrenKovyazina, M.S.; Oschepkova, E.S.; Airapetyan, Z.V.; Ivanova, M.K.; Dedyukina, M.I.; Gavrilova, M.N.
Background. The phenomenon of multilingualism and its impact on child development are in the spotlight of latter-day psychology, and of utmost importance both for theory and practice. Language development is a strong predictor of psychological readiness for school and further academic success. At the same time, children's mastery of written and oral speech in school education in a multilingual environment has several distinctive features. This study was dedicated to examining the influence of executive functions on the development of the vocabulary aspects of speech (both active and passive vocabulary) of mono- and bilingual children growing up in a bilingual environment.
Objective. We aimed to analyze the relationship between bilingualism and language development (vocabulary and verbal fluency) and determine which executive functions may help overcome the resulting difficulties at preschool age.
Design. Both monolingual and bilingual children participated in the study (n = 137 and n = 81, respectively). The children’s ages ranged from 6 to 7 years (M = 78.7 months, SD = 5.87). Two independent General Linear Models (GLM) were built to define which executive functions influenced the vocabulary and verbal fluency of the mono- and bilingual subjects (controlling for age, gender, and non-verbal intelligence as well).
Results. The results confirmed that bilingualism is negatively related to language development, but showed that verbal working memory significantly helps bilinguals compensate for difficulties in developing vocabulary and verbal fluency.
Conclusion. The study demonstrated that the ability to preserve and reproduce verbal information was of more significance for children's vocabulary and verbal fluency than their language group (mono- or bilingual).
Keywords: Preschool age/ speech/ vocabulary/ executive functions/ working memory/ inhibitory control/ cognitive flexibility
Better Language – Faster Helper: The Relation Between Spontaneous Instrumental Helping Action and Language Ability in Family-Reared and Institutionalized Toddlers
Background. Prosocial behavior is the key component of social and interpersonal relations. One of the elements of prosociality is helping behavior, which emerges already in early childhood. Researchers have identified several domains of helping behavior: instrumental helping, comforting another person, and sharing resources with others. The development of helping behavior can depend on a number of factors: children’s age, the social situation of development, communication skills, and the ability to understand the feelings and needs of another person.
Objective. In Study 1, the main goal was to determine the effects of age and cognitive, language, and motor development on instrumental helping skills in early childhood. The goal of Study 2 was to estimate the effects of rearing in an adverse social environment by comparing the capacity for instrumental helping in family-raised and institutionalized children.
Design. The authors examined toddlers’ (N = 198) ability to initiate spontaneous helping and the factors that may influence it. Cognitive, language, and fine motor skills were measured by the Bayley Scales of Infant and Child Development, 3rd edition. Children’s instrumental helping behavior was assessed according to the procedure presented by Warneken and Tomasello, with a few modifications.
Results. Study 1 demonstrated that children’s ability to initiate helping was dependent on their age: the non-helpers were significantly younger than the helpers. Children’s language skills also played a significant role in their helping behavior. The children with higher language skills helped the adult more often and more quickly. Study 2 demonstrated that institutional placement per se was not related to toddlers’ ability to initiate helping. Language ability was associated with helping behavior both in institution- and family-reared toddlers.
Conclusion. Instrumental helping in early childhood is related to children’s age, language skills, and rearing conditions.
Keywords: Toddlers/ institutional rearing/ prosocial behavior/ instrumental helping/ language skills
Cross-cultural Analysis of Models of the Relationship between the Cognitive Abilities and Academic Achievement in Primary School Education
Background. The cognitive predictors of academic achievement are associated both with basic cognitive abilities such as the information processing speed, number sense and visuospatial working memory, as well as with general ability including nonverbal intelligence. However, the ratio between cognitive development and school achievement can depend on sociocultural conditions.
Objective. The results of a cross-cultural analysis of the relationship between cognitive development and academic achievement during primary education are presented. The analysis was conducted sampling schoolchildren from Russia and Kyrgyzstan, two countries that have a similar organization of the national education system but differ in the level of socioeconomic development.
Design. The study involved 732 schoolchildren aged 7.7 to 11.8 years studying in Russia and Kyrgyzstan. Information processing speed, visuospatial working memory, and number sense were assessed using each of “Choice Reaction Time,” “Corsi Block-Tapping Test,” and “Number Sense” computerized tests.
Results. According to the results, empirical data in both samples show that a model where in information processing speed signifies basic cognitive ability is a key predictor of nonverbal intelligence, working memory, and number sense, and each of these may contribute to individual differences in academic achievement. Notwithstanding the universality of this model, cross-cultural differences were seen to engender a reduction of schoolchildren’s academic achievements, given possible impacts of less favorable educational conditions.
Conclusion. In the relationship between cognitive abilities and academic success at the primary school education, there are both similarities and differences between schoolchildren studying in Russia and Kyrgyzstan.
Keywords: Cross-cultural study/ information processing speed/ nonverbal intelligence/ visuospatial working memory/ number sense/ academic achievement/ primary school education/ structural equation modeling
The “Moon Test”: A Step Towards Evaluating Comprehension of Educational Text through Model Mediation
Background. This paper addresses the issue of educational text comprehension, which is one of the major problems in secondary schools, especially when such texts are introduced in the natural sciences. Studies on text comprehension often regard reading as a standalone skill: its mechanisms are discussed from leading theoretical approaches (cognitivism, constructivism, etc.), and variables are distinguished and evaluated. Most of the researchers consider text comprehension to be active reconstruction of the meaning which the text delivers, and regard the application of the information retrieved from the text to problem-solving as the indicator for a deep comprehension level. Since we work within the framework of Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), we consider educational text comprehension to be mediated through special content-related models which students have to acquire. Unfortunately, there are no studies which have directly linked reading, corresponding problem-solving, and working with content-related models (symbolic means, schemes); hence, with this research, we are seeking to fill in the gap.
Objective. Our goal is to elaborate the perspective on educational text comprehension as mediated through mastering special modeling (symbolic) means. In this article we illustrate this approach with the “Moon test” – an assessment procedure which we designed to materialize the components of orientation of students’ action as they succeed or fail to solve problems by relying on the educational text provided.
Design. We conducted the “Moon test” among the fifth graders (10-12 years old). The text, which told the students how to use the moon’s visual transformations as a calendar, was followed by 12 tasks on the topic. The tasks required using the text to master the model provided, and then solve challenging tasks which only referred to the model implicitly.
Results. To analyze the results, we grouped the tasks in four blocks: 1) model acquisition; 2) mastering; 3) application; and 4) experience. The results showed a statistically significant decrease in the students’ performance on tasks of the third and the fourth blocks, which required reasonable application of the models. Further analysis of individual patterns of performance allowed us to distinguish clusters of students with different levels of success in each block.
Conclusion. Our results attest to the importance of model mediation for reading comprehension and the development of scientific literacy.
Keywords: Scientific literacy/ assessment/ reading comprehension/ model acquisition and application/ transfer from primary to secondary education
A Picture of Trait Anxiety and Aggressiveness among Adolescents from Different Types of Educational Institutions
Background. This study is an attempt to identify psychological markers for pupils’ maladaptive states. Аggression is seen as behavior while aggressiveness is seen as the state of being ready for such behavior. Anxiety is considered a stable personality trait. Two hundred and sixty pupils of the 8th grade from five different schools took part in the research. Schools that have a selection principle for admission are called prestige schools.
Objective. The purpose of this study was to discover correlations between trait anxiety and aggressiveness among adolescents in different types of educational institutions. At the same time, we were interested in manifestations of maladaptive perfectionism and destructive personality tendencies as revealed by quantitative and qualitative research methods.
Design. The first stage of the study was a survey to define risk groups for hostility and anxiety among the adolescents. All tests except the one for sociometry were done on an individual basis. The second stage included methods for qualitative analysis of personality. The pupils from identified risk groups were paid special attention. We were interested in the recurrence of destructive personality tendencies as they appeared in each method.
Results. About one third of all the participants from four out of the five schools formed the hostility risk group. In the prestige and non-prestige schools alike, hostile adolescents were more likely to find themselves at least somewhat isolated in their social group (class). Hostile teenagers have more self-esteem problems and issues with forming a Self-concept in general, as well as pronounced destructive personality tendencies in some cases. However, the pictures of trait anxiety in prestige and non-prestige schools were different. Hostile teenagers from non-prestige schools were more likely to greatly underestimate their intelligence and communication skills. In this case, according to the teachers’ expert opinion and the results of participant observation, that assessment reflected the reality. The hostile teenagers at the prestige educational institutions presented a different picture of trait anxiety. Objectively, the achievements of these pupils were great, but they constantly procrastinated, didn’t believe in success, and had communication problems.
Conclusion. This study has shown that the markers of a pupil’s maladaptive state are trait anxiety (school, interpersonal, self-esteem), hostility, and maladaptive perfectionism.
Keywords: Aggressiveness/ hostility/ trait anxiety/ perfectionism/ destructive tendencies of personality
Two Generations of Mother-Child Relationships: A Self-determination Theory Analysis of the Social Situation of Development
Background. This study used self-determination theory to examine the intergenerational continuity of the social situation of development with a focus on what determines a woman's basic psychological need support for her child.
Objective. To assess the relationship between the basic need support a woman received from her own mother, the woman’s basic need support toward her own child, and the quality of the woman-child interaction.
Design. The scales, "Parent-child interaction" and "Basic Psychological Needs," were administered. Eighty-seven women (29-40 years old) with children age 4-5 years assessed the basic need support provided for them by their mother in childhood and at present, and her estimate of the basic need support she herself provides to her own child. Analyses included descriptive statistics, Wilcoxon signed-rank tests, factor analysis, and multiple linear regression.
Results. The ratio of levels of basic need support demonstrated continuity across generations. Intergenerational continuity in the child’s basic need support mainly concerns the needs for competence and relatedness: the more they were supported in childhood and are now supported by the woman's mother, the more the woman supports them in her own child today. Such continuity was not found for autonomy support. A woman’s own basic need support by her mother, in childhood and currently, and the woman’s provision of basic need support for her child predicted most of the woman-child interaction parameters.
Conclusion. Intergenerational continuity with respect to provision of basic need support was shown. The woman-child interaction was predicted by basic need support across intergenerational relations.
Keywords: Social situation of development/ parent-child interaction/ intergenerational continuity/ basic psychological needs/ basic need support/ self-determination theory (SDT)
Adolescents on Social Media: Aggression and Cyberbullying
Background. The aggressiveness of social networking is a significant component of the risk modern teenagers face during socialization, and cyberbullying is one of the most controversial forms of aggressive behavior on social media.
Objective. This paper deals with the study of secondary school students’ behavior on social media. The parameters characterizing teenagers’ usage of social media – their activity, intensity, motives, and self-presentation – are analyzed with respect to gender, age, and social psychological factors. The main focus is teenagers’ personal experience dealing with aggressive situations on social media: their role in aggressive situations (as aggressor, victim, or witness); the form of aggression (public or private); the aggressor’s characteristics (acquaintances or strangers, persons, or groups); and their views on what action victims should take (ignoring it, confronting it, or asking for help).
Design. This article is based on data obtained by researchers at the Center for Sociology of Education of the Institute of Education Management of the Russian Academy of Education in 2020-2021. Using a specially developed questionnaire, we collected responses from 40,575 students from grades 7-11 in 17 regions of Russian Federation through an anonymous online survey. Mathematical statistical methods were used for data processing, specifically, the chi-square test in the “Basic statistics-Difference tests” module of the “StatSoft Statistica 7.0” package.
Results. The data showed that the adolescents with high status among their classmates (“leaders”) used social media as an important educational resource, while those with low status (“loners”) used it to compensate for their poor real-life experience. Aggression on social media appears to be quite common among adolescents. The traditional differences between male and female subcultures appeared in the choice between private or public forms of aggression. The increase in aggressive interactions with strangers as the youth aged indicated that the realization of the teenage distinctive basic need for "expanding one’s social environment" in online interaction comes with the risks of encountering unfriendly, aggressive reactions.
Conclusion. Communication on social media reflects an adolescent’s real-life interaction in school: those who have experienced psychological or physical bullying are more likely to become both victims and offenders in aggressive situations on social media. This transfer of group bullying from real life to the virtual can be seen as the main feature of adolescent cyberbullying.
Keywords: Social media/ adolescence/ aggression/ cyberbullying/ motives for using social media/ self-presentation/ activity on social media/ intensity of the use of social media/ gender specifics/ social status
Controversy and Growth Points in the Activity Theory in Psychology
Background. Activity theory is the most powerful and influential current of Russian psychology in the world today. It considers the psyche to be a special form or function of object-oriented activity. The level of psychical development of a living being is directly proportional to the variety and freedom of its activities.
Objective. The aim of this article is to explore the key growth points in activity psychology through the analysis of arguments among its creators – S.L. Rubinstein, L.S. Vygotsky, A.N. Leontiev, and P.Ja. Galperin. Vygotsky dreamed of building a scientific psychology on the model of Marx’s Das Kapital; his project is resumed in this article.
Results. The author traces how, due to Walter Cannon’s experimental research, Vygotsky came to the activity concept of affect, in which he finds the primary “cell” of the psyche. The problem of the relationship between concept and affect became the central problem of his “acmeistic psychology.” While Vygotsky focused on the affective reflection of activity in the subject, Leontiev focused on its cognitive side, directed toward the object. In the objective world, the psyche serves a person’s material life-activity, performing a search-and-orientation function. Leontiev considered consciousness a structural projection of that activity, but Galperin argued that Leontiev never managed to overcome the dualism of consciousness and activity.
Conclusion. A new path to the realization of Vygotsky’s dream is outlined. The proposed solution is based on Spinoza’s concept of affect and the idea of freedom, interpreted as “the affect in the concept.” (Vygotsky)
Keywords: Activity/ action/ affect/ perezhivanie
Learning Disabilities in Primary School. How to Diagnose and Remediate the Difficulties with a Team Approach: The First Results
Background. An important problem of our day is the significant increase in the number of learning-disabled pupils all over the world. This has led to the emergence of a new branch of neuropsychology –"school neuropsychology" or the "Neuropsychology of learning."
Objective. This paper analyzes the role and functions of a neuropsychologist in primary schools and the possibilities of his/her collaboration with other specialists in diagnosing children’s problems and organizing remediation for problematic kids.
Design. We established four steps for launching neuropsychological work at primary schools: 1) setting up a screening group for neuropsychological assessment of all children entering the first year of school; 2) a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment of the children who showed poor results in the first step of the study; 3) a team remediation program; and 4) evaluation of the remediation results by a new neuropsychological assessment at the end of the remediation program.
Results. The results of the first step of our study showed a very high percentage of children with cognitive problems – 37% of 202 6-8 year-old schoolchildren entering the first year of school. They formed a group at risk for future learning disabilities and maladjustment at school. Age and gender differences, and the structure of cognitive underdevelopment, were discussed in the second step of our study. In the third step, a team of school specialists, including a neuropsychologist, a teacher, a school psychologist, and a school social worker, implemented a remediation program which was created and supervised by a neuropsychologist.
Conclusion. A comprehensive neuropsychological assessment of the pupils revealed a complex structure of cognitive disturbances which interfere with pupils’ learning abilities in primary school. The team approach can efficiently prevent learning disabilities and help children with cognitive underdevelopment and risks of future unsuccess at school, when this collaboration of school specialists has a common theoretical approach and is based upon comprehensive neuropsychological assessment.
Keywords: Learning disabilities/ primary school/ neuropsychological assessment/ remediation/ team approach
Defining Digital Competence for Older Preschool Children
Background. Recent studies show that by the age of 5-7, children have already had experience using technology for several years. Discussions about the impact of digital interaction on children are ongoing. Nevertheless, it is becoming clear that there is a need to develop concepts and tools that will help children in the process of exploring the digital world. One of such concepts can be that of digital competence. It refers to the readiness of an individual to apply digital technologies efficiently and safely in various spheres of life.
Objective. To determine the content of digital competence for modern children of older preschool age.
Design. The study included interviewing children, organizing interaction of a child with a digital device, playing a card game, and having their parents answer survey questions.
Results. Our study found that older preschool children had a general idea of how to use digital technologies and could name those functions which they had observed or used themselves. The main purpose of the children's interactions with digital devices was entertainment. Most of the preschoolers demonstrated low motivation for learning how to use digital devices, and had not developed ideas about how to use digital devices in everyday life safely and effectively.
Conclusion. The concept of digital competence can be applied to the study of issues related to the interaction of older preschool children with the digital environment. The results we obtained can help educators and parents to develop strategies for the appropriate and child-friendly interaction of preschoolers with the digital environment.
Keywords: Digital competence/ digital devices/ parents/ preschool children/ online risks