An examination of the situational specificity hypothesis in hyperactive children

Lawrence P Pinto, Fordham University


The activity of 29 hyperactive and 31 Normal control children was measured in six "in-school" situations and four "out-of-school" situations by means of electronic step counters for a time period of two weeks which included 10 school days and two weekends. It was hypothesized that: (a) children rated as hyperactive would be measurably hyperactive, and (b) that they would be more active in structured and academic situations than in unstructured nonacademic and out-of-school situations.^ The subjects were selected on the basis of Hyperactivity Factor scores (two standard deviations above the normative mean of 0.70, S = 0.78) on the Conners Teacher Rating Scale. The subjects were also rated on the Revised Behavior Problem Checklist and the Teacher Report Form for further confirmation of hyperactivity in hyperactive children.^ Results validated the thesis that children rated as hyperactive are measurably hyperactive. But the situational specificity hypothesis of hyperactivity was not supported by the results of this study. Thus, it was concluded that hyperactive children are hyperactive in all situations. However, it was found that hyperactive children were more active both in academic and in nonacademic periods than the normal control children. It was also observed that when activity was computed in steps per hour rather than in miles per hour, it yielded greater correlations and F-ratios. This finding reflects a greater sensitivity of steps, because a step is a natural unit of measurement rather than a distance measure.^ An unusual finding of this study was an important observation of a threshold rating effect on the Conners Teacher Rating Scale. It did not matter what scores a child received above this threshold score, he would be a hyperactive child. It is observed that hyperactivity is not a continuum. Children are either hyperactive or normoactive; there is no mid-point.^ A post hoc analysis revealed that all situations equally affected the subjects in relation to their activity levels. There was no interaction among the situations and groups reflecting a similarity of reactivity in all subjects to all situations. There was no interaction between groups, situations and time. Findings based on Week-I were also true of Week-II.^ This study validated some of the proposed hypotheses but the situational specificity hypothesis of hyperactivity was not supported and thus, it needs to be further investigated. ^

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Pinto, Lawrence P, "An examination of the situational specificity hypothesis in hyperactive children" (1989). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8918641.