Academic journal article Communication Disorders Quarterly

Implications of the Personal Perceptions of Incarcerated Adolescents concerning Their Own Communicative Competence

Academic journal article Communication Disorders Quarterly

Implications of the Personal Perceptions of Incarcerated Adolescents concerning Their Own Communicative Competence

Article excerpt

This article examines the views of incarcerated and nonincarcerated female adolescents about their performance in and knowledge of communication. Forty-six participants, who ranged in age from 15 to 17 years and were of similar socioeconomic status, were surveyed on two 20-item questionnaires about pragmatic practices that govern conversational interactions. Overall, the results indicated similar findings for the two groups on pragmatic practices. The views of the incarcerated teenagers suggested they did not perceive themselves as having problems with their own performance concerning conversational behaviors. No statistically significant differences between the groups were found on knowledge of the rules governing conversational practices according to societal dictates. Implications for dynamic assessment and intervention are discussed, and service delivery models, metapragmatics, and the role of communication are addressed. In addition, topics in which incarcerated adolescents choose to engage are discussed for the purpose of planning intervention programs.


The United States has a higher juvenile crime rate than any other industrialized nation (Nelson, 1987; Schubert & Gates, 1990). Although Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics suggest that youth crime in the United States peaked in the mid 1970s, Sautter (1995) acknowledged that the seriousness of the crimes committed by young people increased as the number committing crimes decreased. Sautter noted that compared to individuals over the age of 20, teenagers and young people are more than two and one-half times more likely to be involved in a violent crime.

Crimes, violence, and educational challenges are an increasing concern for school personnel (Sautter, 1995). Gottfredson (2001) cited a National Crime Victimization Survey reporting that the severity of crimes in the schools is proportionate to street crimes. Crimes such as these have implications for educators because of the challenges professionals must confront in planning programs for students involved in violence. Although professionals recognize that juvenile delinquency and crime represent a maze of factors when planning for educational needs, educators tend to overlook how communication problems affect delinquency, and these students may not receive the language services they need (Sanger, Moore-Brown, Magnuson, & Svoboda, 2001).

In support of researchers who have pointed out the interrelationships among communication, academic performance, behavior, and social adjustment (see Benner, Nelson, & Epstein, 2000; Donahue, Hartas, & Cole, 1999; Gallagher, 1999; Giddian, 1991; Ishii-Jordan & Maag, 1999), more research is needed on the role of communication in violence. Prior studies on children with communication problems have described the prevalence and types of communication patterns and skills, but little is known about how students perceive their conversational interaction skills. This study explores the perceptions of youth about their communication behaviors.

As early as 1969, the frequent occurrence of communication problems among the delinquent population was reported. Incidence figures, primarily for boys, have ranged from 14% to 84% (Cozad & Rousey, 1966; Davis, Sanger, & Morris-Friehe, 1991; Falconer & Cochran, 1989; Taylor, 1969). Two recent studies conducted on girls indicated that 30 of 145 (20.7%) incarcerated teenage girls were potential candidates for language services (Sanger, Creswell, Dworak, & Schultz, 2000; Sanger, Moore-Brown, Rezac, Montgomery, & Keller, 2003). Quantitative and qualitative findings indicated that many of the girls with language problems were unable to express synonyms for words such as "fatigued," "crucial," or "justify." Participants had trouble explaining why a name such as "Turf Builder" was a good descriptor for a product. They also were unable to define terms for words such as "verify" and could not explain the meaning of phrases such as "no vacancy. …

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