FIELD DEPENDENCE AND LEARNING DISABILITIES: A DEVELOPMENTAL APPROACH
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The present study investigated whether black and Hispanic, lower socioeconomic status learning disabled students are more field dependent than are nonlearning disabled students, and whether the developmental pattern of increased field independence with age, which has been observed in the normal population, exists within the learning disabled population.;It was hypothesized that third and sixth grade learning disabled students are more field dependent, as defined by performance on the Portable Rod and Frame Test and the Black Design subtest of the WISC-R, than are matched controls, and that degree of field dependence is related to severity of learning disability. It was further hypothesized that there is an interaction between learning disability/nonlearning disability and age, that sixth grade control subjects are more field independent than are third grade controls, while sixth grade learning disabled children are not more field independent that third grade learning disabled children. In addition, it was hypothesized that performance on the two experimental measures is significantly related.;Four groups of 20 subjects each, matched for intelligence and sex, were used, third and sixth grade learning disabled and control. Each subject received both experimental measures, the PRFT and Block Design.;Data were subjected to a Multivariate ANOVA, as well as separate 2 x 2 (group x grade) ANOVAs for the Block Design and PRFT data. In addition, correlations were computed between each experimental measure and achievement, and between the two measures.;The results of the present study were as follows: (a) The hypothesis that learning disabled children are more field dependent than matched controls was supported for grades 3 and 6 by the MANOVA and by the ANOVA of Block Design scores. For the PRFT, Hypothesis 1 was supported for the sixth, but not for the third, grade. (b) The hypothesis that sixth grade control group children are more field independent than are third grade control group children was upheld by the results of the MANOVA and the ANOVAs of Block Design and PRFT. (c) The hypothesis that sixth grade learning disabled children are not more field independent than third grade learning disabled children was supported by the MANOVA and the ANOVA of PRFT data. However, Hypothesis 3 did not receive support from the analysis of Block Design scores. (d) The hypothesis that degree of field dependence is related to severity of learning disability was supported by results of the Block Design measure, but not the PRFT. (e) The hypothesis that performance on the two experimental measures is significantly related received support for only the sixth grade control group.;Results were interpreted as providing support for the view that learning disabled children were less able to rely on internal or independent cues or judgment when they are faced with conflicting information, and tend to respond based on the structure of a situation on their own. The argument that learning disabled children fail to proceed at a normal rate of development also received support from the present study. In addition, it was concluded that the Block Design subtest of the WISC-R is not an adequate measure of field dependence, and that individual assessment remains essential in the diagnosis and remediation of learning disabilities.;Limitations related to the nature of the measuring instruments used, the restricted ethnic sample, and the limited number of subjects. Research suggestions also included a focus on the relative effectivenes of educational techniques geared toward field dependent and independent students, as well as investigation of the relationship between field dependence and other constructs found to discriminate between learning disabled and nondisabled students.