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The Behaviour of Children With and Without Upper Cns Lesions

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The 'free-field' behaviour of children with and without brain-damage is described and analysed; the latter are referred to as normals. The effects of environmental changes on this behaviour is observed by the use of 4 environments of increasing complexity. A is an empty room; in B a box of wooden blocks is introduced; in C in addition to the blocks a passive female adult sits in the room; and in D the adult engages the child in play with the blocks. The children are observed through a one-way screen and a behaviour commentary is made on to a tape-recorder. The variables studied are visual fixation, locomotion, manipulation, gestures and postures. The sequence of behaviour in each environment is described for the 2 groups, which are further sub-divided into older and younger sub-groups. In whichever environment they are placed first the normal children always precede any other activity with visual exploration. This is not seen in the brain-damaged children who more readily move about the room and manipulate the fixtures. These children tend to return repeatedly to the same stimulus. The behaviour is classified in terms of organismal variables and environmental variables and the same measures are made on both. The amounts of time spent by the 2 groups in the main activities, visual exloration, manipulation, locomotion and gestures in the different environments is shown; locomotion and gestures drop out of the repertoire of the normals, but not of the brain-damaged, as the environment is made more complex. Gestures and manipulatory activities are examined in detail, as are the different stimuli selected for exploration. In terms of the range of motor activities, number of stimuli engaged and the duration of different activities, both groups behave similarly in A; as the environment becomes more complex, congruous changes are observed in the behaviour of the normal children; the behaviour of the brain-damaged children remains relatively invariable. It is argued that much of the behaviour observed can be regarded as exploratory behaviour. Comparison is made with relevant animal studies. The behaviour of the brain-damaged children is seen in terms of short-term sampling, and the possibility that repetitive activity may be adaptive is considered. It is pointed out that the motor activities of the brain-damaged children are similar to those of chronologically younger children.

Affiliations: 1: The Park Hospital for Children, Oxford, England

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