Measures of Affective, Social & Emotional Functioning

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will discuss the primary indicators of a functioning affect by examining social and emotional competence, as well as behavioral problems and issues with self-regulation. We will also explore some practical ways to measure these elements of affective function.

Sara's Observations

Sara has a student who seems to be developmentally delayed in affective functioning. This means their ability to process social and emotional experiences is somehow impacting behavior and self control. Their emotional responses are often unwarranted or extreme. They have difficulty interacting socially or sharing toys. Sometimes their behavior is inappropriate.

Academically, the child is performing at grade level and seems to have little difficulty mastering the information, but just struggles to keep it together. Sara wonders about this student's social and emotional competence as a result of their behavioral problems and inability to self-regulate. She finds several formal assessments on the web, but most involve using her own observations.

Social competence

Social competence is a way to describe interactions socially with other children and adults, which might include developing and maintaining friendships, cooperating, and being flexible and adapting to different situations by changing behavior.

A child's social competence can be measured by adults observing and reporting on social interactions to include greetings and fair play. Another way to measure social competence is by posing questions to the child with hypothetical social scenarios such as, 'how would you respond if another child did not say hello to you?'

Emotional competence

Emotional competence refers to a child's ability to regulate their own emotional expression and to identify emotional expressions of others. It is also indicated by an ability to interpret emotional cues, to respond accordingly, and to self-soothe and manage emotional outbursts.

A child's emotional competence can be measured by adults observing and reporting on a child showing emotion to someone they know. It's also telling when a child can recognize happiness, sadness, and anger in others and in themselves. Recovering from emotional upsets while identifying and articulating the source can also measure emotional competence.

Helping children identify and articulate their emotions by matching emoticons to feeling words can develop competence
image of emoticons

Behavior problems

When behavior impedes a child's functioning at school or at home, it is considered a behavior problem and could manifest internally or externally. Internalized behavior problems could become excessive worrying, anxiety, or depression while externalized behavior problems could appear as lashing out, acting out, or disruption.

Behavior problems can be measured by adult who knows the child well, observing and reporting on a child showing behaviors that are out of character. Since behavior problems that impact social and emotional functioning can be subtle, intermittent, or infrequent, an unfamiliar observer may not pick up on signs of behaviors that indicate a problem.

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