Perceived Strengths and Difficulties in Adolescents with and without Hearing Impairment

Martin Pinquart, Jens P. Pfeiffer


While studies on parent or teacher reports often found young people with hearing loss to show elevated psychological problems, results are less clear when using adolescent self-reports. The aim of the present study was to analyse self-perceived strengths and difficulties of German adolescents with hearing impairment. A sample of 181 adolescents with hearing impairment from eight special schools (mean age: 14.5 years) and 260 hearing peers from three regular schools filled in the German self-report form of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.1 Adolescents with hearing impairment were found to have a higher Total Difficulties Score and to report more conduct problems in particular. However, they also reported higher levels of prosocial behaviour than their hearing peers. In addition, adolescents who are deaf reported more emotional symptoms and peer problems than their hard of hearing peers, and those with acquired hearing loss experienced higher hyperactivity-inattention than adolescents with congenital hearing impairment. Young people with acquired deafness had the highest Total Difficulties Score and were most likely to report emotional symptoms. All between-group differences can be interpreted as small in a statistical sense. About 43% of this group scored above the clinical cut-off for total difficulties and emotional problems, and 50% for peer-problems. We conclude that adolescents with hearing impairment, and those with acquired deafness in particular, may need to be screened for emotional and behaviour problems. Young people with acquired deafness are in particular need of measures aimed at preventing and reducing emotional and peer-related problems, such as promotion of social and emotional competencies.

Keywords: hearing impairment; deaf; psychological health; adjustment; psychological problems; prosocial behaviour

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