Emotion and prosocial skills in gifted minority preschoolers
Lewis, Olivia Rosemarie
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A few studies have shown that high IQ preschoolers display more advanced prosocial reasoning and somewhat more actual prosocial behavior than their peers. In other studies (not focused on IQ) preschoolers who were better at recognizing emotions also displayed more prosocial behavior and advanced prosocial reasoning. The present research assessed the emotion-related skills, prosocial reasoning, and prosocial behavior of gifted and non-gifted African-American children as part of a single study design. The specific goals were: (a) to compare the emotion-related skills, prosocial reasoning, and prosocial behavior of gifted and non-gifted children; (b) to analyze connections between emotion-related ability, prosocial cognition and prosocial behavior in the overall sample; (c) to compare these skills across the gifted and non-gifted groups; and (d) to assess these skills in an understudied population, i.e., young African-American children. The sample population consisted of two groups of 4 to 6 year old children: 35 with IQs equivalent to 130, and 32 with average IQs. Each subject participated in two 30 minute interviews. In one interview children were administered a standard emotion recognition task (Denham, 1968) to determine how proficient they were at recognizing others' emotions, and in the other interview they were given the revised Eisenberg (1979) prosocial reasoning task. Finally, teachers were asked to complete a 20 item questionnaire on prosocial behavior for each participating subject. Overall, as expected the gifted group of children had more advanced emotion-related skills, higher prosocial reasoning scores and higher rates on prosocial behavior than the non-gifted group. Also, overall children's emotional-related abilities were positively and significantly related to their prosocial reasoning and their prosocial behavior. In contrast, children's prosocial reasoning was not significantly associated with their prosocial behavior. Additional analyses revealed that children's emotion knowledge was linked to prosocial behavior and not mediated by prosocial reasoning. Relationships among these variables appear to depend, however, on children's IQ group status. Separate analyses for each IQ group indicated few meaningful connections among emotion skills, prosocial reasoning and prosocial behavior within each group. There were no statistical age or sex differences in any of the findings.