"A room full of strangers every day": The psychosocial impact of developmental prosopagnosia on children and their families

Kirsten A. Dalrymple, Kimberley Fletcher, Sherryse Corrow, Roshan das Nair, Jason J.S. Barton, Albert Yonas, Brad Duchaine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Objective: Individuals with developmental prosopagnosia ('face blindness') have severe face recognition difficulties due to a failure to develop the necessary visual mechanisms for recognizing faces. These difficulties occur in the absence of brain damage and despite normal low-level vision and intellect. Adults with developmental prosopagnosia report serious personal and emotional consequences from their inability to recognize faces, but little is known about the psychosocial consequences in childhood. Given the importance of face recognition in daily life, and the potential for unique social consequences of impaired face recognition in childhood, we sought to evaluate the impact of developmental prosopagnosia on children and their families. Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 8 children with developmental prosopagnosia and their parents. A battery of face recognition tests was used to confirm the face recognition impairment reported by the parents of each child. We used thematic analysis to develop common themes among the psychosocial experiences of the children and their parents. Results: Three themes were developed from the child reports: 1) awareness of their difficulties, 2) coping strategies, such as using non-facial cues to identify others, and 3) social implications, such as discomfort in, and avoidance of, social situations. These themes were paralleled by the parent reports and highlight the unique social and practical challenges associated with childhood developmental prosopagnosia. Conclusion: Our findings indicate a need for increased awareness and treatment of developmental prosopagnosia to help these children manage their face recognition difficulties and to promote their social and emotional wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-150
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
KAD and BD were supported by an Economic and Social Research Council (UK) grant ( RES-062-23-2426 ) to BD. KF was supported through a CIHR operating grant ( MOP-102567 ) to JJSB. SC was supported by the Eva O. Miller Fellowship and the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship through the graduate school of the University of Minnesota . JJSB was supported by a Canada Research Chair grant ( 950-228984 ) and the Marianne Koerner Chair in Brain Diseases. We would like to thank all the children and families for their candid responses to our interview questions and for inviting us into their homes for lengthy assessments.


  • Children
  • Developmental prosopagnosia
  • Face recognition
  • Psychosocial
  • Social development
  • Thematic analysis


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