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Developmental trajectories of children's social competence in early childhood: The role of the externalizing behaviors of their preschool peers

The construct of social competence encompasses a set of discrete skills considered important for the formation of positive relationships with others (Raver & Zigler, 1997). Despite the importance of social competence, little is known about its developmental course through early childhood. In addition, little is known about the influence of preschool classroom-level peer characteristics on the developmental trajectory of social competence. In this study, we fit multilevel models of change to explore children's trajectories of social competence in early childhood. We investigated whether critical features of children's trajectories differed systematically by observed aggregate differences in the externalizing behaviors of their preschool peers--a salient aspect of one of the first social contexts in which children engage. We found that children's social competence grows over time in early childhood and has a statistically significant, positive relationship with the classroom level of externalizing behaviors. Evidence of this relationship disappears when the quality of the classroom relational climate is controlled for in the multilevel regression model. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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