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Dissertation

The relationship between cognitive abilities and aggression for students receiving special education services: A partial replication study

7 December 2007

Abstract

Children who display aggressive behavior in the classroom are often very 'concerning for parents, teachers, and those who work within special education departments. Understanding how cognitive ability and aggression are related for students receiving special education services may aid in school intervention planning. In 2003, McHale, Obrzut, and Sabers conducted a file review of students who had qualified for special education services under the designation of Emotional Disturbance (ED) and Specific Learning Disorder (SLD). The authors classified the students into four groups: Ed students who were rated as aggressive, ED students who were rated as non-aggressive, SLD students who were rated as aggressive, and SLD students who were rated as nonaggressive. The authors found that the verbal intelligence scores for ED students who were also perceived as aggressive significantly declined over time. In the present study, relevant literature about aggression, cognitive abilities, and their relationship was explored and the study by McHale et al. was partially replicated. Files of students in grad~s 7-12 who had been classified as ED or SLD in the Forest Grove School District in Forest Grove, OR were reviewed and their cognitive scores, scores on behavior checklists, and disciplinary referrals were recorded. There were a total of 29 students included in this study and they were divided into the same four groups as in the McHale et al study, Verbal intelligence was not found to differ for the four groups of students in this study. However, post hoc analyses resulted in significantly higher overall IQ at the time of first assessment for aggressive ED students than for aggressive LD students. Possible implications for school interventions and assessments as well as limitations and directions for future research are discussed.


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