Psychosocial and educational factors associated with neurofibromatosis in children and adolescents

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Clinical Psychology

First Committee Member

Annette M. La Greca - Committee Chair


Examined child and parent report measures of psychosocial, behavioral, and educational functioning in 44 youngsters (ages 10 to 18) with Neurofibromatosis (NF) not preselected for learning or behavior problems. Also reviewed medical and school records and obtained child and parent report measures tapping components of the Disability-Stress-Coping Model including family environment, social support, attitudes toward NF, and hope. Overall, children with NF were reported to have elevated internalizing behavior problems (i.e., somatic complaints and anxiety/depression), social problems, and attention problems, although significant variability in behavioral functioning was noted. Children in special education placements tended to display more internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses based on the Disability-Stress-Coping Model suggested that lower NF severity and greater family cohesion were predictive of fewer internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. While parents reported generalized social adjustment and social competence problems, most children reported no problems beyond significantly limited positive interactions with peers. However, children in special education placements tended to report more negative interactions with peers. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses yielded different models of predictors for different aspects of social adjustment, identifying age, classmate and friend social support, and attitudes toward NF as important factors. Finally, school performance problems were significant and common for the present sample, in which one half of the children were in special education. Limitations and strengths of the present study, as well as suggestions for further research, are discussed.


Health Sciences, Mental Health; Education, Special; Psychology, Clinical

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