Atypicalities of social functioning in children with Williams syndrome

  • Amanda Gillooly

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Children with Williams syndrome (WS) are often reported to show a hyper-social phenotype which can pose implications for their interactions with strangers and peers. The present thesis aimed to obtain an in depth examination of two key areas of social difficulty in children with WS: social approach behaviour (SAB) and peer relationships. A multi-informant approach was used in order to examine the nature and stability of these atypicalities across environmental settings and from different perspectives.Within the present thesis, five studies are reported. Within chapters 3, 4 and 5, SAB was examined in children with WS (aged 7-16 years) by administering an experimental rating task (Adolph’s Approachability Task), a parent questionnaire and semi-structured interview. The children with WS indicated significantly higher levels of SAB in Adolph’s Approachability Task than typically developing (TD) children matched on verbal ability and TD children matched on non-verbal ability. These high levels of SAB were reported by parents to have substantial implications for the children’s vulnerability and family life. However, there was within-syndrome variance in the manifestation of this SAB. Impairment in social functioning, specifically deficits within social cognition and social awareness, were significantly associated with levels of SAB in the children with WS.Within chapters 6 and 7, questionnaires and interviews were used to solicit the perceptions of children with WS, their parents and teachers regarding the child’s peer relationships. Parents and teachers reported that many of the children with WS had difficulties forming and sustaining friendships and demonstrated atypical patterns of behaviour during social interactions. However, these peer relationship difficulties were not reported by the children themselves. Peer relationship difficulties were found to be significantly associated with the children’s deficits within social communication, social cognition and social awareness.The findings from the current thesis provide insight into substantial social difficulties among many children with WS. Importantly, and in line with the heterogeneous nature of the disorder, there was within-syndrome variance in the children’s social functioning. The present findings have important implications for both research and practice. These implications will be discussed, with suggestions for future research.
Date of Award1 Oct 2016
LanguageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorLynn Williams (Supervisor) & Leanne Fleming (Supervisor)

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