A comparison of teacher attributions for internalizing versus externalizing behaviours in students

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Warner, Aleasha
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Mount Saint Vincent University
This study examined the effect of child internalizing behaviour (i.e. anxiety and depression) and child externalizing behaviour (i.e., ADHD-Hyperactive/Impulsive and ADHD –Inattentive presentations) on teacher attributions for behaviour in a sample of 35 elementary and junior high school teachers. Teachers were asked to read vignettes describing a hypothetical student exhibiting behaviours consistent with ADHD predominately Hyperactive-Impulsive type, ADHD predominately Inattentive type, anxiety or depression. Teacher responses to the hypothetical student were assessed using (a) attribution ratings on the dimensions of locus, control, and stability, and (b) ratings of helping behaviours with respect to referral, accommodations, and perceived manageability of student behaviour. Results indicated that attributions for internalizing versus externalizing behaviours did not differ significantly depending on the classification of the disorder. In addition, teachers with higher levels of mental health knowledge made attributions associated with the neurobiological nature of the disorders. Exploratory analyses of teaching style are also discussed. Findings are also used to identify future directions and address potential implications for school psychologists.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder , Externalizing behaviour , Internalizing behaviour