Understanding of coercive communications in adolescents with and without developmental or behavior disorders

Date of Completion

January 2000


Psychology, Social|Education, Educational Psychology|Psychology, Cognitive




The exploration and measurement of social intelligence (SI) has met with mixed results. Greenspan (1979, 1997) refers to social intelligence (SI) as a “person's ability to understand and to deal effectively with interpersonal situations and transactions, and to use that understanding to assist one in achieving desired interpersonal outcomes.” The view has been taken by some that social intelligence has been confounded by its overlap with measures of academic intelligence (O'Sullivan, Guilford & Demille, 1965, Thorndike 1936; Thorndike & Stein, 1937). Success has been obtained in measuring social intelligence through “behavioral effectiveness” (Ford & Tisak, 1983; Keating, 1978; Marlowe 1986). Fortunately, Greenspan (1979, 1981a, 1997) offers a heuristic model for the development of questions pertaining to SI within the domains formulated by Ford (1992, 1995). In particular, self-determination within the domain of self-assertive social relationships was pursued. Self-determination (Ford, 1992, 1995) through avoiding the feeling of being pressured, constrained, or coerced is tested by the deceptive questioning found in the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scales (GSS) 1 and 2 (1984, 1986). Several video scenarios were developed using procedures taken from the Gudjonsson Scales. This study investigated whether high school students who observe two videos of the social interaction of a questioner and subject similar to that found in the GSS's understood the intentions of the questioner on a concrete, functional or abstract or triadic level (Baron-Cohen, 1995). Student level of understanding was ascertained by their answers to questions formulated from Greenspan's model. The videos used contrast blatant and subtle coercive intentions of a questioner. Students were selected from several DSM-IV (1994) syndromes (disruptive behavior disorders, autism) and/or special educational categories along with those in regular education, ^ Adolescents from the general population (n = 81) have a greater understanding of coercive communication, whether subtle or blatant, than adolescents with either Disruptive Behavior Disorders (DBD) (n = 27) or Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) (n = 20). When coercion is subtle, students with DBD understand coercive situations better than students with PDD. When coercion is blatant students with PDD appear to understand coercive situations better than students with DBD. ^