The effects of role-taking, observational learning, and problem-solving on the social development of emotionally disturbed children

Emotionally disturbed children have demonstrated deficient role-taking and problem-solving skills as compared to the normal population. The aims of the study were (1) to compare the effects of role-taking and problem-solving in enhancing social skills of emotionally disturbed children, and (2) to determine whether a child's active participation or observation is more important in developing these skills. Thirty-six emotionally disturbed and learning handicapped males, of Caucasian, Black, and Mexican ethnic backgrounds, ranging from age 8 to 17, were randomly assigned to either role-taking or problem-solving training under one of three conditions: active participation, observational learning, or control. The subjects were pre- and posttested with the Chandler's Bystander Intervention Role-taking Test and the MEPS (Means End Problem-solving Test) by Spivack and Shure (1981). In the active participation condition, a story of a boy faced with a conflict situation was read to the subjects. The role-takers then answered questions requiring them to take the roles of the story characters, the problem-solvers answered questions requiring them to demonstrate an understanding of the problem, to generate alternative solutions, and to evaluate possible consequences. (See more in text.)