Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Social and emotional competence in children and adolescents who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH)

How does having limited access to the social world affect Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH) children’s emotional development? And in turn, how do impairments in emotional functioning affect social development and the development of psychopathology?

NutsOhra NutsOhra
Overbeek Stichting
Stichting het Heinsius-Houboldt fonds


This project is part of the ‘Emotion Focus Group’, which is focused on social and emotional competence in children and adolescents who have communicative impairments, such as children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH), children with Specific Language Impairments (SLI), and children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

see www.focusonemotions.nl


Dutch Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Child (NSDSK), Amsterdam

Royal Kentalis, Sint-Michielsgestel

KIDS, Hasselt, Belgium

Trento University, Italy

University of Chieti, Italy

University of Evora, Portugal

We all want to belong somewhere, want to be appreciated, loved, and respected for who we are and for what we want. These basic human needs are not met automatically for children who have communicative impairments, like children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH). Most children who are DHH grow up in a sound-dominated world. For some of these children, this means that their preferred mode of communication (i.e., Sign(-supported) Language) differs from the (spoken) language of the hearing people around them. These days, many children in Western countries receive a cochlear implant (CI). This sophisticated device is able to let children who are profoundly deaf perceive sounds; a promising technique that creates a window of opportunity into the hearing world. An increasing amount of children who are DHH enter mainstream education and are stimulated to use spoken language to communicate peers. However, despite these promising progress the possibility to fully overhear others, for example in noisy environments, is still limited. This limited access to the social world seriously hampers children who are DHH in their so-called ‘emotion socialization’ because they will profit less from the opportunity for incidental learning.

Like language development the capacity for emotional development is innate. However, highly advanced input from the social environment is required to reach full potential in children. In the projects that we currently run concerning children who are DHH, the main focus is on how impairments in emotional development affect children’s social relationships, and the development of symptoms of psychopathology (e.g., depression, anxiety, and aggression). Currently, a main focus is on children’s development of moral emotions (shame and guilt) and empathy, emotions that require a so-called other-oriented perspective that is especially challenging for children who are DHH. The main questions are i) how these moral emotions develop in this particular group, compared to their hearing peers, ii) what the influence is of individual differences (e.g. social background, medical history, language development) on these emotions, and iii) how impairments affect children’s and adolescents’ social development and the development of psychopathology (e.g. depression, anxiety, aggression).

To answer these questions, various studies are run simultaneously, involving different methods (observation, eye tracking, parent reports, self-reports), and different informants (child, parent, teacher).

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