Monday, 9 August 2010

Cerebral palsy and 'social development'

New study from Australia

It would be nice to have resources. In default of this one may be left with an abstract that unfairly fails to capture the full value of a research study. Here is an instance, now on line ahead of paper publication, that shows us that 'researchers' (if this were the mass media one might well write 'scientists') are looking to create statistical evidence about how very young children with cerebral palsy may fare with respect to 'social development'.

Whittingham, K., Fahey, M., Rawicki, B,, Boyd, R., (2010) The relationship between motor abilities and early social development in a preschool cohort of children with cerebral palsy. Research into Developmental Disabilities, July
AIM: To investigate the relationship between motor ability and early social development in a cohort of preschool children with cerebral palsy (CP).
DESIGN: Population-based cohort study
METHODS: Participants were 122 children with CP assessed at 18, 24 and 30 months, corrected age (ca). Motor ability was measured by the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) with classification assigned by physiotherapists. The sample was representative of a population-based cohort (I=48, 38.4%, II=19, 15.2%, III=17, 13.6%, IV=22, 17.6% and V=19, 15.2%). Social development was measured by the Paediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory (PEDI) and included capabilities in social interaction, social communication, interactive play and household/community tasks.
RESULTS: Cross-sectional analyses indicated a significant relationship between motor ability and social development at 18 months, F(4, 56)=11.44, p<.0001, eta(2)=.45, at 24 months, F(4, 79)=15.66, p<.0001, eta(2)=.44 and at 30 months, F(4, 76)=16.06, p<.0001, eta(2)=.49. A longitudinal analysis with a subset of children (N=24) indicated a significant interaction between age at assessment and GMFCS, F(2, 21)=7.02, p=.005, eta(2)=.40. Comparison with community norms indicated that at 18 months corrected age, 44.3% of the cohort was greater than two standard deviations below the mean (>2SD) for social development and a further 27.9% of the cohort was greater than one standard deviation below the mean (>1SD).
INTERPRETATION: There is a relationship between motor ability and social development in preschool children with CP. Children with CP may require support for social development in additional to physical interventions, from as early as 18 months.

Just under US$ 20.00 will buy you the full text. On the basis of what is available for free:
  • 'social development' seems to be something to be observed and rated in children (individual-psychological/behavioural rather than transactional, or even interactive process?)
  • the article tells nothing of course about the directions and nature of causality
  • its Interpretation, in trespassing out of the descriptive into the interventional, is presumably therefore dependent upon other data – or implicit assumptions from elsewhere
  • use of the word 'support' is unfortunate in this context – or is it in fact rather telling?
No, not science – misparadigmed, medical research.


  1. Additional problem: The research only goes to 2.5 years which is hardly pre-School. For the results to have any actual meaning it would really need to look at social development through Kindergarten and even through grade school.

    My daughter just entered the second grade and has a wonderful close set of friends. She has mild CP but had she been tested at 2.5 years she would have be far behind the "norm."

  2. "Children with CP may require support for social development in additional to physical interventions, from as early as 18 months" - WOW!!! That's a big innovation!!!!!
    What's new? Unfortunately, there are tons of studies like this one ...
    When I wrote my MA, I read hundreds of studies with no innovation or statement. I would call them "research with no researsh"...
    Waste of time and money invested in this study ...