Joint Attention in Parent–Child Dyads Involving Children with Selective Mutism: A Comparison Between Anxious and Typically Developing Children
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Although joint attention processes are known to play an important role in adaptive social behavior in typical development, we know little about these processes in clinical child populations. We compared early school age children with selective mutism (SM; n = 19) versus mixed anxiety (MA; n = 18) and community controls (CC; n = 26) on joint attention measures coded from direct observations with their parent during an unstructured free play task and two structured tasks. As predicted, the SM dyads established significantly fewer episodes of joint attention through parental initiation acts than the MA and CC dyads during the structured tasks. Findings suggest that children with SM may withdraw from their parents during stressful situations, thus missing out on opportunities for learning other coping skills. We discuss the implications of the present findings for understanding the maintenance and treatment of SM.
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