Attachment,conduct disorder and perspective taking in 7-9 year old boys

Tilbrook, David (2000). Attachment,conduct disorder and perspective taking in 7-9 year old boys. PhD thesis The Open University.



The perspective taking ability of children with aggressive behaviour problems was explored, by comparing them with non-aggressive children on tasks involving the prediction of emotion and behaviour on hypothetical short story vignettes. Their ability to correctly predict emotion and behaviour in emotionally charged, personally involving tasks was investigated, and linked with their security of attachment and verbal intelligence.

Contrary to what was predicted, the aggressive children were not observed to perform poorly on complex emotionally charged, personally involving vignettes. Also, security of attachment was not seen to relate to performance on vignettes. The ability to provide explanations of responses which incorporated a coherent description of the differing and false beliefs held by different characters correlated with verbal intelligence and tentatively with security of attachment. The two groups showed significant differences on all sub-scales of a measure of abnormal social behaviour and two out of three sub-scales of a measure of security of attachment. The results do not present a clear picture, but suggest that verbal intelligence is associated with perspective taking and understanding of emotion.

A consideration of methodological issues suggests that the short story vignettes suffer from poor reliability and possibly poor validity. The findings are discussed with relation to other literature, in particular an alternative theory of the development of emotion understanding that emphasizes the role of coherent psychological discourse by the caregiver. The role of disorganised attachment in childhood aggression is also discussed. Implications for clinical practice are considered and suggestions for future research are outlined.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions