Date of Award

Fall 1982

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The purpose of the present study was to investigate the salient factors in teachers' judgements of hyperactivity and conduct problems. A set of thirty eight vignettes was presented to fifty elementary school teachers. Five variables, two levels of each, were systematically varied in the vignettes: gender (male or female), quality of schoolwork (adequate or poor), activity level (medium or high), aggression (non-aggressive or aggressive), and peer acceptance (liked or not-liked). For each vignette, subjects rated the extent they considered the child to be hyperactive (or a conduct problem), how likely they would be to refer the child for evaluation, and how responsible they thought the child was for his/her behavior. The question of the child's being perceived as hyperactive or a conduct problem was employed as a between-subjects variable. Twenty-nine subjects completed questionnaires that included the hyperactivity question and twenty-one responded to the conduct problem question. Ratings were analyzed with multiple regression analyses using ratings of vignettes as criterion variables and the five characteristics of children as predictor variables.

Hyperactivity ratings were predicted mainly by activity level. Conduct problem ratings were predicted mainly by aggression and activity level. Referrals for evaluation in both cases were based on schoolwork and aggression, and to a lesser degree on activity level and peer acceptance. Children judged to be hyperactive and conduct problems were more likely to be referred for evaluation than those not so judged. Children judged to be hyperactive were considered to be less responsible for their behavior compared to those not judged hyperactive. There were no significant gender effects.

Results suggest that a judgement of hyperactivity involves a more narrowly defined set of criteria than a judgement of conduct problems, and that, in most teachers' conceptualizations, hyperactivity probably constitutes a subset of the more general category of conduct problems. Discussion centers on the relationship of aggression and activity level dimensions to judgements about hyperactivity and conduct problems, and on the referral process of children with these characteristics.