Article Summary: Social perception in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Children with FASD are very social; they tend to seek out social interaction with others and start conversations. However, once engaged in a conversation, they struggle with understanding social cues and facial expressions. This study examined the deficits in social cognition among children ages 8-12 with FASD. In particular, this study identified how recognizing facial expressions and showing empathy can be a challenge among children with FASD.

Social cognition deficits among children with FASD can include:

  • Improperly recognizing emotion in other people
  • Trouble with problem-solving in social situations
  • Difficulty showing empathy toward others
  • Poor understanding of others’ mental states, and using the proper word to describe one’s mental state

Social perception
Social perception refers to how social cues from the environment are used and understood. Understanding facial expressions are important for social development, but those with FASD often have significant trouble recognizing emotions, especially expression of the eyes. This difficulty with understanding of facial expressions and eye cues often results in a poor understanding of the overall social situation. Individuals with FASD were found to misunderstand facial expressions with both positive (e.g., happy) and negative (e.g., angry) emotions.

Take-home message
Children with FASD show difficulty with social perception, in particular, facial expressions and understanding expression of the eyes. Although we understand the potentially negative impact this deficit can have on social behaviour, there is still more research to be done on areas of social perception among children with FASD. This study did not account for the amount or timing of prenatal alcohol exposure, other substances the mother may have used, or other factors that may influence the development of social perception. It is also important to consider a larger age range in future studies to see if there is an improvement of social skills or if it levels off at a certain age.

Authors: Sara A. Stevens, Hayyah Clairman, Kelly Nash, Joanne Rovet

Journal: Child Neuropsychology

2 Responses

  1. Jenn

    This is very interesting. Our son Is very outgoing but does not understand social cues and social boundaries. He also doesn’t understand people’s “bubbles”.

  2. paulparker

    Many fail to understand social cues and social boundaries, some of whom we now understand are perhaps permanently wired this way due FASD,

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