SINGLE-PARENT PRESCHOOL CHILDREN: SEPARATION AND ADJUSTMENT TO SCHOOL
MALLERY, BERRELL E.
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This study examined differential adjustment to preschool by single-parent and intact family children. It was posited that single-parent children would have difficulty adjusting manifested by greater separation related behaviors. The theoretical basis was the separation-individuation theory of Mahler, Pine, and Bergman (1975) and the related work of Abelin (1971, 1975, 1977) on the role of the father's presence. The study was conducted during the first three weeks of the fall term of 1978.;Adjustment was measured by observational data which was decoded onto the Mallery Adjustment to Nursery Rating Scale (MANRS), a measure devised by the author. This data was then statistically analysed. In addition the Stanford Preschool Internal External Scale (SPIES) devised by Mischel, Zeiss and Zeiss (1974) was used because of a possible link between internal locus of control and individuation.;The sample consisted of 20 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 year old children from intact and single-parent families whose socio-economic status ranged from lower to upper middle class. In each of two classes five experimental and five control group children were matched according to age, sex, socio-economic status, and sibling size. They were entering students of a New York City preschool which provides an enriched environment and numerous services from a nearby university and hospital.;The results revealed that all hypotheses were rejected. However, there was a significant difference between groups in the demonstration of separation anxiety in the opposite direction than anticipated. Since it was intact family children demonstrating greater separation anxiety it was necessary to consider whether they were actually showing greater difficulty adjusting. Based on inference a reconsideration followed of how single-parent children may have manifested separation anxiety differently when adjusting to preschool.;Theoretical data (Abelin, 1977, Mahler, et al. 1975, A. Freud, 1965) suggest that single-parent children should experience more difficulty which may have been manifested differently than hypothesized. Mahler et al. (1975) suggest that some children, in the face of an unbearable situation manifest difficulties in "repression in service of adaptation." (p. 211) This inference is supported by a six year exploratory study by Speers, McFarland, Arnaud, and Curry, (1971) who found that children who showed significantly less separation anxiety adjusting to preschool, later developed pathological symptoms. Those findings suggest that single-parent children in this study showed pathological adjustment.;However, these inferences are based on studies which only included family children. Single-parent children at the ages of 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 may have encountered a consistent environment which yielded different expectations and patterns more conducive to adjusting to new situations. It was suggested that these may be children whose fathers left prior to the infant's seventh month and thus did not experience traumatic loss that older children would. The inference that single-parent children experienced greater difficulty based on theoretical and empirical data can only be known for sure after a follow-up study of these children to determine which children develop pathological symptoms.;In addition to hypothesized data, correlations yielded positive relationships between increase in age and increase in Levels of Play, supporting the findings of Whiteside, Busch and Horner (1976), and increase in age and locus of control, supporting the findings of Nowicki and Duke (1974).
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