Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Joseph R. Scotti.


This study examined the overt behavioral response of children following recent exposure to a motor vehicle accident (MVA). Forty-five children completed a clinical Stroop task. Children were divided, based on prior psychometric assessment, into three groups: (a) survivors of a recent MVA, and experiencing behavioral distress; (b) survivors of a recent MVA, and not experiencing behavioral distress; and (c) those who have not experienced an MVA. Differential color-naming and error response to four types of Stroop stimuli was assessed: (a) MVA-related words, (b) school-stress related words, (c) neutral household words, and (d) colored Xs. Analysis of participant characteristics indicated no significant differences between the groups on child variables such as gender, race, reading level, grade in school, or age; or parent variables such as education, employment or marital status. Additionally, there were no differences between the two MVA groups in parent report of the severity of the MVA. Results revealed that the distressed MVA survivors exhibited longer color-naming times for MVA-related words, compared to comparison word and participant groups. However, this Stroop Effect was only obtained for the children reading at or above a fourth-grade level. Children reading below the fourth-grade level took longer to color-name than high readers, irrespective of word type and participant group. Additionally, there appeared to be a fatigue effect for all participants, evidenced by an overall increase in color-naming tune over trials. The Stroop effect was only apparent after fatigue was statistically controlled. No differences were obtained in the number of errors across word types and participant groups. Finally, psychometric data were not correlated with Stroop performance on the MVA-related words. These results suggest that the clinical Stroop color-naming (but not error) task may identify distressed MVA survivors who are reading at or above the fourth grade reading level. For children reading below the fourth-grade level the reading response may be challenging enough to block the Stroop effect. The lack of correlation between verbal report of distress and color-naming performance on the MVA-words also signifies the importance of direct assessment approaches such as the clinical Stroop task to the assessment of post-accident distress.