Cognitive and affective components of Theory of Mind in preschoolers with oppositional defiance disorder: Clinical evidence.


The goal of the study was to examine the affective-cognitive components of Theory of Mind (ToM), in a community sample of 538 preschoolers, and more specifically in a subsample of 40 children diagnosed with ODD. The relationship between affective and cognitive ToM and some ODD clinical characteristics was examined. Children were assessed with structured diagnostic interviews and dimensional measures of psychopathology, impairment and unemotional traits. A measure based on eye-gaze was used to assess ToM. Mixed analysis of variance compared the mean cognitive versus affective scale scores and the between-subjects factor ODD. The association between ToM-scores and clinical measures was assessed through correlation models. Execution and reaction time to emotional and cognitive components of ToM tasks are different at age 5 in normally developing children. Oppositional Defiant children had slower response time when performing the affective mentalizing condition than children without the disorder. The correlation matrix between ToM-scores and clinical measures showed specific associations depending on the impaired ToM aspect and the psychological domain. Results may have clinical implications for the prevention and management of ODD.