The social sensitivity of preschoolers in peer conflicts: Do children act differently with different peers?

Mary T. Rourke, Robert H. Wozniak, Kimberly Wright Cassidy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study sought to demonstrate that many aspects of preschoolers’ peer conflict behavior are sensitive to the subtle change in social situation that occurs when a child plays with a different partner. Twenty-seven pairs of preschoolers were videotaped over four 15-minute play sessions; in the fourth session, half of the pairs played with a different partner, while half were with the same partner. Frequency and theme of conflicts, strategies used, frequency of yielding to partner, and percentage of conflicts solved were observed. Initiating and negotiating behavior in early sessions better predicted behavior in the fourth session for the same-partner (vs. change- partner) group, and thus emerged as behaviors sensitive to social context changes. Results indicate that preschoolers have a remarkably varied array of conflict behaviors and that much of their conflict behavior is sensitive to influences inherent to social interaction with a specific partner. Ways in which the apparent sophistication in young children’s social understanding can inform developmental approaches to early childhood education as well as both preventative and therapeutic conflict resolution programs are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-227
Number of pages19
JournalEarly Education and Development
Volume10
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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