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Maternal evaluations of young children’s developmental status: A comparison of clinic- and non-clinic-groups

Author(s): Pia Deimann | Ursula Kastner-Koller

Journal: Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling
ISSN 2190-0493

Volume: 53;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 214;
Date: 2011;
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Keywords: maternal evaluation | developmental assessment | preschool age

The question whether parents’ reports on their children’s development provide reliable information is a subject of controversial debate. While parental rating scales and parental interviews are widely used in clinical practice, empirical findings have shown that parents cannot assess their children well. Previous research has illustrated that most parents tend to overestimate the developmental status and cognitive performance of their children. If the child displays behavior problems, the accuracy of mothers’ appraisals decreases substantially. The aim of this study was (1) to examine whether mothers who are concerned about their children’s development still overestimate the developmental status and (2) whether maternal beliefs about developmental norms influence the accuracy of evaluation. The sample consisted of 14 mother-child-dyads who were clients of two outpatient clinics in Vienna and had concerns about the child’s development, 16 mother-child-dyads without concerns who sought advice because of their children’s potential high abilities, and 30 mother-child-dyads without concerns and no clinic referral. While the children were tested using the Wiener Entwicklungstest (Viennese Developmental Test, WET, Kastner-Koller & Deimann, 2002), a developmental test for children 3 to 6 years old, mothers were asked to estimate which items of the WET (1) their own child and (2) a normal peer would be able to solve. Mothers with concerns had limited knowledge of what a child of a certain age can achieve and they expected too much. Though they realized that their own developmentally delayed child did not fulfill these high expectations, they were not able to appraise his/her performance accurately. Mothers whose children were normally developed or even above average were able to evaluate their own children much more precisely. Moreover, these mothers estimated developmental norms more accurately. Both mothers of gifted children and of developmentally delayed children perceived a gap in their beliefs about their own children’s achievement compared to their beliefs about developmental norms. This discrepancy might lead them to seek advice at an outpatient clinic.
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