Sensory Processing Patterns and Emotion Regulation in Children Presenting with Externalizing Behaviors
Date of Submission
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP
Sensory processing is a neurological process that involves a child’s perception, organization, and reaction to sensory stimuli. Certain groups of people, such as children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), experience more intense sensory processing patterns (Dunn, 2007). Researchers have also observed that children presenting with ASD and ADHD exhibit more externalizing scores as their sensory processing patterns become more intense or problematic (Gourley et al., 2013). However, researchers have not examined the relationship between sensory processing and externalizing behaviors in those not diagnosed with ASD and ADHD. Additionally, there are overlapping neural mechanisms between sensory processing and emotion regulation. However, there is limited research regarding the relationship between sensory processing patterns and emotion regulation. The purpose of this study was to determine if there is a predictive relationship between sensory processing patterns and externalizing behaviors, as well as between sensory processing patterns and emotion regulation. Parents of 47 children, ages six through 14 years old, completed the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), the Short Sensory Profile, and the Emotion Regulation Checklist. Each sensory processing pattern significantly predicted externalizing behaviors, indicating that children presenting with problematic sensory processing are more likely to engage in aggressive and rule breaking behaviors. As sensory processing patterns became more problematic, emotional dysregulation increases and the ability to regulate emotional reactions decreases. Understanding how sensory processing can impact the emotions and behaviors of the children that enter therapy, can further inform assessment, conceptualization, and intervention.
Levitt, Melanie, "Sensory Processing Patterns and Emotion Regulation in Children Presenting with Externalizing Behaviors" (2019). PCOM Psychology Dissertations. 518.