Learning disabilities and cognitive functioning in a child psychiatric population

Lori A Borelli, Pace University


In research there has been a great deal of discussion suggesting the comorbidity between childhood psychopathology, childhood learning disabilities and other cognitive impairments. No clear resolution to how these difficulties are interrelated exists. The purpose of the current study was to further understanding of the relationship between these problems in children. This study examined 265 children from a private inpatient psychiatric hospital. Children were placed into one of four clinical categories, based on mean scores from the Personality Inventory for Children (PIC), which consisted of an internalizing disorders group, an externalizing disorders group, a mixed internalizing/externalizing disorders group and a group with no clinical elevations. Children were then classified as learning disabled if they had both a standard score below 85 on any subject area of the Wide Range Achievement Test 3 (WRAT3) and also a 15 point discrepancy between that achievement area and their Full Scale IQ score on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Third Edition (WISC-III). The frequency of subjects with learning disabilities were computed for the general sample and within the four clinical categories created. Frequencies of learning disabilities were also compared based on severity of parent reported symptology on the PIC. MANOVA's were used to compare scores on the WISC-III, Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), Das Naglieri: Cognitive Assessment System (DN:CAS), and Conner's Continuous Performance Test (CPT) across the clinical groups created. Subjects with a reading discrepancy were then compared to those without a reading discrepancy within the four clinical groups across the same cognitive and attention measures discussed above. Results found that arithmetic disabilities were most common in this sample. Significant differences were revealed between the clinical groups in the occurrence of arithmetic disabilities however, no differences were apparent for the remaining spelling and reading disability groups. There were no significant differences in the occurrence of learning difficulties related to the extent of psychopathology although those children with more symptoms consistently had more disabilities in all areas. There were no significant differences between clinical groups across cognitive measures or measures of attention. When clinical category and learning disability status were combined there were significant differences within the externalizing group only, between those children with and without a learning disability, on selective subtests from the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children third edition (WISC-III), and the Das Naglieri Cognitive Assessment System (DN:CAS). Limitations and implications for future research are addressed as are applications for the field of school-child clinical psychology.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Mental health|Cognitive therapy

Recommended Citation

Borelli, Lori A, "Learning disabilities and cognitive functioning in a child psychiatric population" (2001). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3015186.



Remote User: Click Here to Login (must have Pace University remote login ID and password. Once logged in, click on the View More link above)