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Social interactions between people with dementia: pilot evaluation of an observational instrument in a nursing home

  • Jean-Bernard Mabire (a1) (a2) (a3), Marie-Claire Gay (a1), Pierre Vrignaud (a1), Catherine Garitte (a1) and Myrra Vernooij-Dassen (a4) (a5)...

In dementia, cognitive and psychological disorders might interfere with maintaining social interactions. We have little information about the nature of these interactions of people with dementia in nursing homes. The aim of this study is to investigate social interactions between people with dementia and to validate an observation grid of them.


Fifty-six institutionalized people with dementia took part in this study. Residents had not met beforehand and were divided into groups of four to six. Social behaviors were videotaped and analyzed by two independent raters with an observation grid measuring frequency of occurrence. The ethogram was the conceptual tool that became the Social Observation Behaviors Residents Index (SOBRI).


Two-thousand-six-hundred-seventy instances of behavior were collected. Behaviors directed at others represented 50.90% and self-centered behaviors 47.83%. No negative behaviors were observed. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was used to validate the SOBRI and showed two components of social behaviors that explained about 30.56% of the total variance: social interactions with other residents (18.36%) and with care staff (12.20%). The grid showed a good internal consistency with a Cronbach's α of 0.90 for the first component and 0.85 for the second one.


The SOBRI presents robust psychometric validity. This pilot study indicates that people with dementia spontaneously interact with other residents. These results contradict the stigma of non-communication and the stereotypes about dementia. More studies and validations are needed to contribute to the knowledge of social interactions in dementia.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: Jean-Bernard Mabire, Fondation de Rothschild, 76, Rue de Picpus, 75012 Paris, France. Phone: +0033-1-44-68-46-36. Email:
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International Psychogeriatrics
  • ISSN: 1041-6102
  • EISSN: 1741-203X
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