Special Issue "Increasing Knowledge on Learning and Behavioral Difficulties in Children"

A special issue of Children (ISSN 2227-9067).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2021) | Viewed by 10276

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Pietro Muratori
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
IRCCS Fondazione Stella Maris, Pisa, Italy
Interests: oppositional defiant disorder; conduct disorder; cognitive behavioral therapy for children and parents; neurodevelopmental disorders; prevention intervention; coping power program; mindfulness
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Chiara Pecini
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Education, Languages, Intercultures, Literatures and Psychology, University of Florence, 50129 Florence, Italy
Interests: language disorder; specific learning disorder; cognitive rehabilitation; home-based interventions; assessment; empowerment and rehabilitation of executive functions
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Learning and behavioral difficulties often emerge during childhood, and are one of the most important issues of concern for families and schools. Learning difficulties can cause negative effects during the lifespan, such as a higher risk of school drop-out, poorer mental health, and vocational difficulties. Behavioral difficulties often emerge in the same period, and are one of the other most important reasons of concern for teachers, educators, and school administrators. Such difficulties show high stability in time and are associated with long-term negative outcomes such as school failure and psychopathology. The co-occurrence between such behavioral difficulties and learning difficulties, defined either as diagnostic categories or dimensional quantitative traits, is well documented. Nevertheless, the relationship between behavioral and learning difficulties is complex and needs to be further described. There has been debate about whether the causal direction of the behavioral–learning association can be interpreted in different ways, for example, in a bidirectional way or by considering whether the common underlying risk vulnerability factors working at different levels (e.g., genetic vulnerability, attachment difficulties, and neural development). We welcome articles from across the globe on all matters relating to the developmental course, evaluation, and treatment of learning and behavioral difficulties. The target population of the article can involve all of the developmental periods. Case reports, reviews, and original research will be considered for publication. We are looking forward to receiving your contributions.

Dr. Pietro Muratori
Dr. Chiara Pecini
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Children is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • learning problems
  • behavioral problems
  • prevention intervention
  • school
  • assessment
  • executive functions
  • hyperactivity

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Article
Preschool Executive Functioning and Child Behavior: Association with Learning Prerequisites?
Children 2021, 8(11), 964; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8110964 - 26 Oct 2021
Viewed by 647
Abstract
Preschool age is a golden period for the emergence of executive functions (EFs) that, in turn, predict learning and adaptive behavior throughout all life. The study was aimed to identify which EFs measures significantly explained the learning prerequisites and the mediation role of [...] Read more.
Preschool age is a golden period for the emergence of executive functions (EFs) that, in turn, predict learning and adaptive behavior throughout all life. The study was aimed to identify which EFs measures significantly explained the learning prerequisites and the mediation role of self-regulatory and executive behavior recorded in structured or free settings. One hundred and twenty-seven preschoolers were remotely assessed by standardized tests of response inhibition, working memory, control of interference, and cognitive flexibility. Teachers provided a global measure of learning prerequisites by an observational questionnaire. Self-regulatory behavior during the assessment was evaluated by a rating scale filled by the examiners. Executive function behavior in daily life was measured by a questionnaire filled by parents. Accuracy in tasks of response inhibition and working memory explained about 48% of the variability in learning prerequisites while response speed and accuracy in the control of interference and in cognitive flexibility were not significant. EFs also had indirect effects, mediated by the child’s self-regulatory behavior evaluated during the assessment but not in daily life. The results are interpreted with respect to the contribution of the main EF components to school readiness and the mediation of the child behavior as measured in structure contexts. Full article
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Article
One Year Follow Up Efficacy of the Coping Power Universal and Its Relations with Teachers’ Occupational Stress
Children 2021, 8(10), 832; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8100832 - 22 Sep 2021
Viewed by 791
Abstract
The coping power universal (CPU) is an evidence-based universal prevention program delivered by teachers, and completely integrated into the school agenda. Previous studies have shown its positive effects, though little is known about its longer-term effects, and no previous study has explored whether [...] Read more.
The coping power universal (CPU) is an evidence-based universal prevention program delivered by teachers, and completely integrated into the school agenda. Previous studies have shown its positive effects, though little is known about its longer-term effects, and no previous study has explored whether teachers’ occupational stress could influence the CPU efficacy. The current study aimed to explore the 1 year follow up of the CPU on students’ externalizing and internalizing problems and prosocial behavior, and the influence of baseline levels of teachers’ stress in a sample of 316 3rd graders and their teachers (N = 32). Results showed that the CPU led to positive effects, not attainable with the standard curriculum. Additionally, improvements in prosocial behavior persisted even one year after the conclusion of the program. However, improvements in internalizing and externalizing problems were not maintained at the follow up, highlighting the need to understand the factors influencing the CPU efficacy. In this regard, our findings showed that high levels of teachers’ occupational stress predicted poorer improvements following the CPU, and an increase in students’ difficulties at the follow-up assessment. Addressing teachers’ stress as part of prevention programs for students could boost their efficacy and yield more lasting results. Full article
Article
Social-Emotional Difficulties in Irish Children Aged Five and Nine Years: A National, Longitudinal Study
Children 2021, 8(8), 656; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8080656 - 29 Jul 2021
Viewed by 685
Abstract
A small proportion of children experience social-emotional difficulties from early childhood onwards. Longitudinal studies with nationally representative samples are needed to identify the prevalence and the characteristics of children and families persistently experiencing these difficulties. Secondary analysis of data collected on over 7500 [...] Read more.
A small proportion of children experience social-emotional difficulties from early childhood onwards. Longitudinal studies with nationally representative samples are needed to identify the prevalence and the characteristics of children and families persistently experiencing these difficulties. Secondary analysis of data collected on over 7500 Irish children and with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire as the primary indicator, found that 6% of children when they were five year olds and 8% when they were nine-years, had above threshold scores that warranted further investigation. A smaller proportion—2.9% had elevated scores at both ages. Logistic regression analyses found that children with one or more developmental disabilities were up to six times more likely to have sustained difficulties. There were also significant associations with the lower education attainment of primary caregivers and the socio-economic deprivation of families. Primary caregivers and teachers reported higher conflict in their relationships with these children. Although the number of Irish children presenting with continuing social-emotional difficulties is small, they can present an ongoing and future societal cost in terms of the impact on family relations and demands placed on educational, health and social services. This study identified the children and families who are at greatest risk and for whom targeted early intervention services could be provided. Full article
Article
Self-Reported School Difficulties and the Use of the School Nurse Services by Adolescent Students
Children 2021, 8(8), 647; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8080647 - 28 Jul 2021
Viewed by 979
Abstract
Adolescents are increasingly finding school difficult and physical, mental and social problems increase the risk of exclusion. School health services help to identify problems and prevent them from escalating and the school nurse should be consulted when children are struggling academically. This study [...] Read more.
Adolescents are increasingly finding school difficult and physical, mental and social problems increase the risk of exclusion. School health services help to identify problems and prevent them from escalating and the school nurse should be consulted when children are struggling academically. This study explored associations between school difficulties and the use of school health nurse services by 73,680 comprehensive school students with median age of 15.3. The study was based on nationally representative data from the 2017 Finnish School Health Promotion study and analyzed by gender. Difficulties in schooling were common and ranged from 9.9–32.7%. Girls reported difficulties more frequently than boys. Having self-reported difficulties was associated with greater use of school health nurse services, with girls seeking help more often than boys with similar issues and more boys saying they had no need for services. In addition, more self-reported difficulties with schooling were associated with unmet need for school health nurse services. School difficulties were associated with greater use of the school health nurse service use when the data were controlled for background factors. This study highlights shortcomings in access to school health nurse services by children with self-reported school difficulties and that girls were more likely report problems and seek help. Full article
Article
Attention Components and Spelling Accuracy: Which Connections Matter?
Children 2021, 8(7), 539; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8070539 - 24 Jun 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 698
Abstract
Attention and working memory are cross-domain functions that regulate both behavioural and learning processes. Few longitudinal studies have focused on the impact of these cognitive resources on spelling skills in the early phase of learning to write. This longitudinal study investigates the contributions [...] Read more.
Attention and working memory are cross-domain functions that regulate both behavioural and learning processes. Few longitudinal studies have focused on the impact of these cognitive resources on spelling skills in the early phase of learning to write. This longitudinal study investigates the contributions of attention and working memory processes to spelling accuracy and handwriting speed in 112 primary school children (2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade; age range: 7.6–9.4 years) learning to write in the Italian transparent orthography. Standardised batteries were used to assess their attention and working memory skills, as well as their spelling. Homophone and non-homophone errors were measured, as they may involve different attentional and working memory processes. The results showed that, for 2nd grade children, selective attention shifting, planning, and inhibition predicted non-homophone errors, whereas sequential working memory predicted homophone errors and writing speed was explained by planning and selective attention. In 3rd grade, only homophone errors were predicted by planning and inhibition. No significant relationships were found in 4th grade, nor in the transition across grades. Dynamic and diversified roles of attentional and working memory processes in predicting different writing skills in early primary school years emerged, with a gradual decrease in the attention–writing relationship with age. Full article
Article
Difficulty in Writing Perceived by University Students: A Comparison of Inaccurate Writers with and without Diagnostic Certification
Children 2021, 8(2), 88; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8020088 - 27 Jan 2021
Viewed by 721
Abstract
Research has shown that academic success is strongly associated with positive academic self-efficacy beliefs and that individuals with learning disabilities (LDs) usually report a lower perception of competence than their peers in most learning domains. The aim of this study was two-fold: (1) [...] Read more.
Research has shown that academic success is strongly associated with positive academic self-efficacy beliefs and that individuals with learning disabilities (LDs) usually report a lower perception of competence than their peers in most learning domains. The aim of this study was two-fold: (1) To compare the performance of inaccurate writers who were not diagnosed with an LD with that of students who were diagnosed with an LD, in order to identify which tasks were the most challenging for individuals with LDs, and (2) to investigate whether inaccurate writers with and without a diagnosis differ in terms of self-perceived difficulties. Two groups were selected from a total sample of 639 students attending seven Italian universities: The first group included 48 participants (24 females) with scores on writing tasks below the 5th percentile, and the second included 51 participants (24 females) who were diagnosed with an LD. The results showed that the two groups significantly differed in the articulatory suppression condition tasks, but not in the standard condition tasks. When groups were matched for performance on writing tasks, students who were diagnosed with an LD reported significantly more perceived difficulties than students without an LD. The implications of these results in terms of the self-efficacy beliefs of students with an LD are discussed. Full article
Article
Exploring the Moderation Effect of Educational Stage on Visual Magnocellular Functioning Linked to Reading: A Study in French Primary School Children
Children 2021, 8(2), 68; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8020068 - 21 Jan 2021
Viewed by 641
Abstract
Many studies have investigated the visual magnocellular system functioning in dyslexia. However, very little is known on the relationship between the visual magnocellular system functioning and reading abilities in typical developing readers. In this study, we aimed at studying this relationship and more [...] Read more.
Many studies have investigated the visual magnocellular system functioning in dyslexia. However, very little is known on the relationship between the visual magnocellular system functioning and reading abilities in typical developing readers. In this study, we aimed at studying this relationship and more specifically the moderation effect of educational stage on this link. We thus tested 82 French typical developing readers (40 beginning readers—Grade 1 and 42 advanced readers—Grade 5) with reading tests and a coherent dot motion task measuring the visual magnocellular functioning. Results indicate positive correlations between visual magnocellular functioning and reading for beginning readers but not for advanced readers. Moreover, moderation analyses confirm that reading proficiency moderates the relationship between magnocellular system functioning and reading outcomes. We concluded that the relationship between visual magnocellular pathway functioning and reading abilities in typical developing readers could depend on reading proficiency. Full article
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Article
Associations between Learning and Behavioral Difficulties in Second-Grade Children
Children 2020, 7(9), 112; https://doi.org/10.3390/children7090112 - 26 Aug 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1902
Abstract
Learning and behavioral difficulties often emerge during the first years of primary school and are one of the most important issues of concern for families and schools. The study was aimed at investigating the co-occurrence of difficulties between academic learning and emotional-behavioral control [...] Read more.
Learning and behavioral difficulties often emerge during the first years of primary school and are one of the most important issues of concern for families and schools. The study was aimed at investigating the co-occurrence of difficulties between academic learning and emotional-behavioral control in typically developing school children and the moderating role of sex. A sample of 640 second-grade school children participated in the study. This study used the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire to measure the emotional and behavioral difficulties and a battery of objective and standardized tests to evaluate the learning skills in children. In this sample 7% to 16% of children performed below the normal range in reading and/or arithmetic tests. Mixed models showed that children’s hyperactive behaviors were positively related to both reading and math difficulties, and emotional problems correlated negatively with reading accuracy. The more children displayed behavioral difficulties, the more they were exposed to the risk of worsening reading and math performance, especially for girls. The result that among different emotional-behavioral problems within the school setting, hyperactivity behaviors and emotional difficulties are related to learning difficulties with a moderate effect of sex, needs to be taken into account in screening and prevention programs for learning difficulties in order to not disregard the complexity of the associated profiles. Full article
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Review

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Review
Analysing Educational Interventions with Gifted Students. Systematic Review
Children 2021, 8(5), 365; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8050365 - 03 May 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2148
Abstract
(1) Background: Educational attention to gifted students has not been a well-established line of research due to the multiple conceptions about their characterisation. While educational attention has tended to respond to students who present learning difficulties due to their limitations, it has been [...] Read more.
(1) Background: Educational attention to gifted students has not been a well-established line of research due to the multiple conceptions about their characterisation. While educational attention has tended to respond to students who present learning difficulties due to their limitations, it has been observed that gifted students may also fail in their studies. The purpose of this study is to examine educational interventions carried out with this population worldwide; (2) Methods: The methodological design is a systematic review, following the PRISMA guidelines, in the Scopus and WOS databases on educational interventions and gifted students; (3) Results: The papers were studied through a qualitative content analysis based on a population of 557 articles, with a final sample of 14, finding a great variety of didactic strategies and models oriented to meet the needs of this group. In relation to the quality of the studies, the lack of pre-post methodological designs focused on performance stands out; (4) Conclusions: Educational research with gifted population demands more interventions personalised to the specific characteristics of the students. In addition, there is a need for further research with quasi-experimental designs with this population to identify quality, not generalised, interventions to meet these needs and replace them with individualised adaptations regarding the needs and interests of these students in order to increase their motivation and reduce failure. Full article
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