Characteristics of Social-Emotional Development (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 23, 2010

Sibling Relationships  A preschool child’s social-emotional development is also impacted by the relationship with siblings in the family. Siblings have a strong but different relationship than parents and children. There is a wide variation in sibling relationships that is affected by the personalities of the children, birth order, and parent–child relationships. In addition, parent–child relationships are different for each child. The influence that siblings have on a preschool child’s social and emotional development can be nurturing and supporting or full of conflict (Berger, 2000).

Peer Relationships  Peer relationships also affect the social-emotional development of preschool children. Social development is affected by the opportunities the child has to engage in activities with other children. Preschool children who attend day care or a preschool program have more opportunity to interact socially; however, the quality of the program can affect whether the child becomes more socially competent or, instead, more assertive and aggressive (Hayes, Palmer, & Zaslow, 1990; Zigler & Lang, 1990).

Social Competence  Progress in the characteristics of social development in the preschool years leads to social competence. Indeed, it is the overarching characteristic of positive social development.

A definition of social competence is difficult to describe because researchers understand it differently. Creasey, Jarvis, and Berk (1998, p. 118) have synthesized diverse descriptors and definitions to the following: “socially competent children exhibit a positive demeanor around or toward others, have accurate social information processing abilities, and display social behaviors that lead them to be well liked by others.”

Various factors can affect the child’s development of social competence. Infants with insecure attachment can be predicted to be more dependent and less curious and have less positive affect during social interactions, leading to less optimal relationships with peers during the preschool years (Creasey et al., 1998). Later interactions with parents and siblings affect social competence. The child’s social network of parents and siblings provides opportunities to observe and practice social skills that can be introduced into emerging peer relationships (MacDonald & Parke, 1984). Parents and caregivers also influence social competence by arranging social interactions and coaching young children on how to interact appropriately in social interactions.

Quality of attachment to preschool teachers and quality of caregiving settings has an impact on social competence. Children who are enrolled in poor-quality day care have more problems with social competence than children enrolled in high-quality day care (Howes & Matheson, 1992; Howes & Stewart, 1987). As a result, factors external to family influences can “support, compensate for, or even undermine the influence of the family context” (Creasey et al., 1998, p. 120).

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