Exploratory research regarding the validity of short form WISC -III testing of abused children
Child maltreatment is a chronic problem that plagues both the United States and the world. In 1999, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting System received 2,974,000 reports of child abuse in the United States alone (Sedlak & Broadhurst, 1999). Psychologists are called upon to assess the cognitive and emotional functioning of abuse victims. Historical trends of what constitutes abuse and theoretical conceptualizations of abuse in our current society are considered. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - Third Edition (WISC-III) is a crucial tool employed during the assessment of maltreated children. A review of clinical and experimental literature indicates that abuse survivors display an enormous range of symptomatic reactions to their maltreatment which impact their cognitive functioning (Kaufman, 1991). Many individual survivors of maltreatment display significant emotional and behavioral disturbances (Gil, 1979) which compromise standardized testing procedures; causing some psychologists to choose short forms of intelligence tests to estimate cognitive functioning (Silverstein, 1990b). Hypervigilance, a symptom observed in many trauma victims (Jacobsen, 1986), may invalidate the results of some WISC-III short forms due to an hypothesized elevation of the Picture Completion (PC) subscale scores. Archival files of 60 participants, who have documented histories of abuse and full WISC-III results, are analyzed to determine if a dyad or tetrad short form of the WISC-III containing the PC subtest overestimate the subjects' Full Scale Intelligence Quotients (FSIQs). A procedure to account for intersubtest correlation outlined by Tellegen and Briggs (1967) is employed to obtain the deviation quotient for each subject. Pairwise t tests are conducted to compare the short form results to the FSIQ mean of the sample. Results indicate no significant difference between short form estimates and FSIQ mean of the sample. Trends in the data and research conducted during the course of this study are discussed. Findings strongly suggest that psychologists use caution when interpreting WISC-III results of maltreatment survivors, especially in regards to the PC subtest, and that short form testing should be utilized only when absolutely necessary.