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Social competence and social information processing in children with neurofibromatosis type 1
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 10:40 authored by Amelia Kate Lewis
This thesis investigates social competence and social information processing in children with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). The aims of this thesis were threefold: 1) to investigate day to day social competence in children with NF1 (Paper 1), 2) to better understand facial emotion recognition abilities in children with NF1 (Paper 2) and 3) to explore face perception and attention to faces in children with NF1 (Papers 2 and 3). In relation to the first aim, the results of Paper 1 indicated that, as a group, children with NF1 displayed significantly poorer day to day social competence than their typically developing peers. Children with NF1 who displayed high levels of autistic symptomatology and socially anxious behaviour were particularly at risk of social competence problems. Pertaining to the second aim, the findings of Paper 2 suggested that children with NF1 displayed poorer recognition of threatening emotions, but not non-threatening emotions, compared to typically developing children. Children with NF1 displayed particular deficits in identifying fear, but also had difficulty identifying anger. Facial emotion recognition problems were not significantly related to the manner in which children with NF1 viewed faces or their ability to perceive and discriminate between faces, although a non-significant trend was observed whereby poorer face perception skills were associated with reduced proficiency in identifying anger. In relation to the third aim, results suggested that children with NF1 spent less time attending to faces than typically developing children both when presented in isolation (Paper 2) and when presented in the context of a static social scene (Paper 3). As a group, children with NF1 also displayed significantly poorer face perception abilities than typically developing children (Papers 2 and 3). Taken together, these findings indicate that children with NF1 are at significant risk of day to day social competence problems. Moreover, findings indicate that impairments in perceiving, interpreting, and attending to information from faces may be important aspects of the social-cognitive phenotype of NF1.