Staff Member Projects

Frijns-emotiona developmentThe social-emotional development and psychopathology of children with hearing impairment

Johan Frijns

Emotions are a major influence on child development, on inter-and intra-personal level. Interpersonal, because the way children understand emotions and deal with them determines how well they can communicate their emotions, which in turn has consequences for their social functioning. Intrapersonal because if you feel good you can also perform better in other areas (such as cognitive). Emotions have a large influence on the development of children in many domains, like social and cognitive functioning. There are indications that there are restrictions on the emotional development of deaf and CI children. Improving emotional development needs to start as young as possible. As a first step, our group has developed and evaluated experimental protocols with which the main aspects in emotional functioning of deaf and hearing implanted children (age 1-5) can be measured (in close collaboration with Prof. Carolien Rieffe of the Faculty of Social Sciences).  

Children suffering from hearing impairment often lag behind in speech and language development. This leads to less accessibility to the social world, which not only lead to a delay in social and emotional development, but also to an increased probability to develop psychopathologies like depression, anxiety and aggression. The project “child and emotion” started in 2008. This program compares the social emotional development and psychopathology of deaf and hearing impaired children (with and without CI) aged between 9 and 15 to normal hearing children. Furthermore, the influence of a large number of medical and audiological variables is analysed, like etiology and the degree of hearing loss, language, school type, and communication mode. Initial results show that hearing impaired children suffer significantly more often from several types of psychopathology than normal hearing controls. An interesting observation was, that CI children show less psychopathology than children with a hearing aid.  

Currently we are performing a longitudinal study (including children we tested at the age of 3-5 years, and which are now 9-10 years of age) in order to find the most reliable predictors of socio-emotional development in deaf and hard of hearing children, and to identify the most effective interventions to prevent psychopathology at an older age for this category of children.