Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Associations of Extroversion and Parental Overprotection with Forming Relationships with Peers among Adolescents with and without Visual Impairments

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Associations of Extroversion and Parental Overprotection with Forming Relationships with Peers among Adolescents with and without Visual Impairments

Article excerpt

Abstract: We analyzed the role of parental overprotection and extroversion in forming relationships with peers among 158 adolescents with visual impairments and 158 adolescents who were sighted. Negative associations of overprotection with the number of friends and membership in a peer group and of low extroversion with having a close friend were stronger in the adolescents with visual impairment.


Data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation indicate that 0.5% of U.S. children have difficulty seeing words and letters in ordinary newsprint even when wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses (Steinmetz, 2006). Visual impairment (that is, blindness or low vision) is likely to cause problems in forming relationships with peers because it is usually accompanied by impaired mobility, the lack of orientation, and a generally lower level of social competence. In fact, studies have shown that adolescents with visual impairments report more difficulties than do those who are sighted in making friends, have smaller friendship networks, engage in fewer social activities with peers who are sighted, and spend more time alone (see, for example, Huurre & Aro, 2000; Sacks, Wolffe, & Tierney, 1998).

Although studies have consistently identified adolescents with visual impairments' problems with peers, the observed differences between students with visual impairments and other students have been, on average, small, and only a minority of young people with visual impairments seem to suffer from such problems (Huure & Aro, 2000). Thus, there is substantial interest in identifying factors that may predict which students with visual impairments will develop problems with peers. On the basis of developmental psychopathology, a particular risk factor, such as visual impairment, is not likely to generate the same outcome in all persons. Rather, risk factors are likely to interact with other risk factors (Kazdin & Kagan, 1994). The study presented here focused on three risk factors that may be relevant for forming relationships with peers, namely, level of vision loss, low extroversion (high introversion), and parental overprotection.

Visual Impairment, extroversion, and parental overprotection

The level of vision loss can affect peer relations, with higher levels of visual impairment associated with less positive relationships with peers. Huurre and Aro (2000) found some empirical support for this suggestion. Nonetheless, Sacks and colleagues (1998) observed even somewhat lower levels of social activities in students with low vision than in students who are blind and those who are sighted. However, they did not test whether these differences were statistically significant.

Introversion may be defined as a person's tendency to prefer his or her own company to large social events and quiet reflection to social interaction, whereas extroversion includes elements of sociability, social interest, and assertiveness (Elphick, Halverson, & Marzal-Wisniewska, 1988). Not being assertive and outgoing may be a particularly strong risk factor for forming relationships with peers among adolescents with visual impairments and other disabilities because these adolescents may need to be more active in gaining and cultivating relationships with peers and in overcoming negative attitudes toward people with disabilities. In fact, students with visual impairments have reported that they have to work hard to maintain friendships, particularly friendships with students who are sighted (Sacks et al., 1998). To our knowledge, only one study has tested for interaction effects of extroversion or its subfactors with chronic illness or disability. Hayward et al. (2008) found that shyness was a stronger risk factor for social anxiety in children with chronic illnesses than in other children. In the study presented here, we tested whether this result can be generalized to the association of extroversion with forming peer relationships among students with visual impairments. …

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