Preschoolers' disputes and emotions as related to social competence
Cooperman, Sharon Rose
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This project was designed to assess the relationship among preschoolers' emotions, dispute-related behaviors, and social competence as well as assess whether or not this relationship varied by gender. Naturalistic observations were conducted on 51 preschoolers and rating scales were administered to the children and their teachers. Observational coding instruments were utilized to obtain information about: (a) preschoolers' emotions recorded both outside of disputes (baseline) and during disputes, and (b) preschoolers' dispute-related interactions. In addition, preschoolers were administered rating scales to examine peer acceptance and aggression, while teachers were administered rating scales to assess preschoolers' social skills and aggression. Collectively, peer ratings and teacher ratings were referred to as social competence.;Results indicated that, independent of emotion context, preschoolers who were frequently happy were well accepted by their peers, were viewed as socially competent, and were not likely to initiate aggression. However, emotion context as well as the particular emotion expressed influenced the relationship among preschoolers' emotions, dispute-related behaviors, and their social competence. Preschoolers who frequently expressed dispute happiness were not well accepted by their peers and were likely to initiate conflicts and aggression. Furthermore, preschoolers who frequently expressed baseline anger were likely to initiate aggression and were not well accepted by their peers. However, preschoolers' expressions of dispute anger didn't influence their initiation of aggression, peer acceptance, or social skills. Moreover, the connection between baseline anger and peer acceptance was mediated by aggression, but dispute happiness directly influenced peer acceptance.;Although the small subject population made it difficult to draw definitive conclusions concerning gender differences, the following results were noteworthy. Boys initiated more conflicts, were rated as more aggressive, were viewed as less socially skilled, and more frequently displayed happiness during disputes. Furthermore, analyses of same-sex and opposite-sex disputes revealed that boys were more likely to initiate aggressive acts with girls than with other boys. In contrast, girls were no more likely to initiate acts of aggression with boys than they were with girls. In addition, the present study found no difference between the amount of physical or verbal aggression used by either boys or girls during opposite-sex aggressive interactions.