Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, Ed.D.



First Advisor

Ellyn Lucas Arwood

LC Subjects

Language transfer (Language learning); Education, Elementary--Research; Language--Study and teaching--United States


Preparing students to acquire prosocial behaviors is of growing concern for educators. Although a connection between language structures and students struggling to acquire prosocial behaviors has been established, students identified with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) are not being consistently identified with language impairment (LI). Viewing language differently, the acquisition of language functions is theorized to play a role in the attainment of prosocial concepts resulting in prosocial behaviors. Currently, limited research exists that explores the connection between language functions and students struggling to acquire prosocial behaviors. The purpose of this study was to: (a) triangulate literature in the areas of cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and language to support a theoretical framework in neuroeducation to address the acquisition of prosocial behaviors; and, (b) apply this framework by exploring the connection between levels of language function and the acquisition of the underlying prosocial concepts through language function sampling analyses with elementary students identified with EBD and/or LI. Four methods of language sampling were used to address two main research questions: (a) What similarities and differences in language function levels and characteristics exist, if any, among varying educational levels of students with EBD, LI, and/or both? (b) Will students identified with EBD, LI and/or both make prosocial or antisocial relationships among the agents, their actions, and the context? This study of language sampling included nine participants identified with EBD and two identified with LI. Language samples were analyzed through deductive content analysis based off predefined codes from existing literature in language function. Key findings include: (a) Commensurate deficits of iv language function among participants with EBD and LI indicated by pre-language levels of language function; (b) a proclivity among the students with EBD to assign antisocial meaning to oral and cartooned responses to event-based pictures; and (c) limited production of prosocial responses from all participants to event-based pictures. The results of this study suggest the current structural methods of language assessment for educational eligibility may be inadequate among elementary students identified with EBD. The inclusion of language function measures is recommended for this student population. Additionally, this study suggests that (a) current behavioral curricula that do not factor in acquisition of language function may fail to provide the concepts necessary for acquisition of prosocial behaviors; and (b) a neuroeducation approach that considers the importance of prosocial concept acquisition may result in prosocial development.


Copyright for this work is retained by the author.