Building character – how does it relate to Aspies?

Building character is an interesting publication that can be found here: link.

While most people (including myself) agree that “good character” is an important trait, and that this is a highly wanted outcome for a child, the test used to measure this (SDQ) seems to be highly inappropriate. The SDQ-test is necesarily highly negatively correlated with ADD/ADHD, ASCs and neurodiversity in general. By using this test they will not measure character traits in neurodiverse people in a meaningful way. Still, it is evident that at least some of the traits in SDQ are not inherited traits, but negative outcomes for being neurodiverse and having a bad upbringing, so it could still be relevant for neurodiverse children as long as the objective is not to measure neurodiverse children against neurotypical children.

That said, here are some of the main conclusions:

  1. Attachment has a large positive effect on outcome
  2. Rules and rule inforcement has a smaller effect on outcome, but it has a large negative effect when lack of rules is combined with weak attachment
  3. High self-esteem and sense of control is a strong predictor for good outcome
  4. Depression is a strong predictor of poor outcome
  5. There are extra-sensitive children with “negative temperament”

I think it is a given that attachment and warmth (in contrast to hostility) is a major factor in parenting any child, neurodiverse or not. This could have increasing importance for the neurodiverse child.

It also seems that the section about negative temperaments could very well describe the neurodiverse child which has a strong dislike for authority. They do not elaborate and compare this group of children’s outcomes between the rule-not rule dimension of parenting, which otherwise would be pretty interesting.

High self-esteem, sense of control and depression are things that parents acquire because of their own childhood, environment and life experience, and thus this is a factor that could be transfered from parent to child without being genetic. Problems in this area are also frequently associated with neurodiversity. This is thus a confounding factor that is not genetically related to neurodiversity, but to the discrimination / bad behavior againstĀ  neurodiverse people. It is also important to note that improper attitudes from social authorities towards neurodiverse people in some countries like Sweden and Norway could create negative feedback loops when social authorities implement unwanted “help” and persecution of neurodiverse people.

Rules and enforcement of rules is a special case. It is not obvious from the design how the rules are implemented. They only ask participants about how many rules they have, and if they are strictly enforced. This misses out on a very important aspect of rules related to dislike of authority that is related to neurodiversity. At some other place they mentioned a study of consistent use of reward and punishment combined with encouraging autonomy in the child being related to positive outcomes. This research also do not answer the question about only reward and punishment (and especially in relation to dislike for authority).

That reward and punishment is not effective on children with dislike for authority is almost a given. Especially not if rules are made up arbitrarily. In order to make a child with dislike for authority to accept rules, it is necesary for the child to understand the rule, to understand why it exists, and on its own accepting the rule as valid and good. Only when this procedure is used will the child accept the rule, and it will then need no reward or punishment in order to follow it. If it doesn’t accept the rule, no level of reward or punishment can make it accept it, and the child will become difficult and argumentative instead, which could affect the primary parameter of attachment. The best parents of children with dislike for authority tend to be parents that have good attachment and few rules and low enforcement, or that have many rules that the child accepts and few rules the child doesn’t accept.

One Response to “Building character – how does it relate to Aspies?

  • djonkoman
    December 30th, 2010 11:33

    the last paragraph of this article really strikes me, because I clearly recognise myself and my parents into it
    as a young kid(elementary) I was not a real troublemaker, on the contrary, I was the smart kid of the class(and therefor viewed as nerd by the rest, even while I probably did less effort for school as I did, I did like reading and gathering information about certain topics tough)
    but still I had some big clashes with teachers, mostly in situations where I camke in conflict with a ridiculous rule, I choose to go my own way, to wich authority figures always seems to think that giving punishments helps, but at the pnt I get one punishment I don’t care of that punishment gets worse, while as long as I don’t receive a punishment I will keep the most rules(as long as they don’t directly interfer with my freedom and principles)
    my parents have awlays been among the very fe people that got me and indeed they made me realise the purpose of the rules(and in some cases they work with rewards to get me to do some things, but not much punishments, and compared to my friends I don’t have that much rules, and I can reason with my parents where they have to whine, whining never really worked with my parents but reasoning does)
    strangely, teachers seem to never have gotten me, even when teaching to me for a onger time they still try to get me to abide rules I don’t agree with by punishing me, and if I ignore the punishment they still think they can get me to abide by punishing more)
    I have once given in at a situation like that where they kept saying I was making it harder for myself etc, so I gave in to see hpw that would be and that try has proven to me once and for all I just have to keeo my own way no matter what others say(giving in never merans it’s over, it’s only a small moment before a new problem arises and it gives the authority false hope, also I just disdn’t feel comfortable with I noticed)
    in my ongoing ramble I have already gone past elementary on to highschool(well not exactly highschool since I don’t live in the US, but it’s roughly similar in age)
    now I am one of the troublemakers I think, but more vecause I’m now in a more constant clash with rules, there are more rules of wich I don’t see the point and every time again I clash with that’ rules are rules no mater how ridiculous, obsulete and detrimental they are’-attitude, and just as before a clash means it easily escalates into a bigger situation(but only if the authority chooses to make a problem out of it)
    one common clash is that I never make homework because in my experience it doesn’t help me(maybe with maths as exception but that’s a lot and I’m lazy so often I don’t have that either)
    this year they started with giving detention for that much more often, meaning I’m in detention nearly every day(usually I actually go to it once or twice a week, and again the authority sees this as a victory over me while it’s usually just a random act on my side, I just choose by day if I’m in the mood for it, and I wouldn’t even go if detention was still like it was before, but it isn’t as bad now since I can just play some games on my laptop till the time is over)
    detention also isn’t really a punishment for me, I rather finish school an hour later every day then make that boring usually far too simple and repetitive homework

    but I’m going on a ramble now, I think my main point is in the first bit of this post and anymore rambling now would dlute it too much

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