Negative interactions and social competence for preschool children in two samples: Reconsidering the interpretation of aggressive behavior for young children

Brian E. Vaughn, Margaret Vollenweider, Kelly K. Bost, Muriel R. Azria-Evans, J. Blake Snider

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Two samples of preschool children (471 attending Head Start, 472 in a community sample) were observed with regard to their initiations of negative interactions. Scores for three dimensions of aggression viewed as salient by preschool teachers were also derived from observational data. Observation and sociometric assessments were used to characterize children's social competence. Normative declines in negative behavior and aggression scales were observed for some measures. Children attending Head Start programs tended to have higher scores for negative initiations and for one aggression scale, but these results are qualified by significant gender by sample interactions. Further analyses revealed coherence among the negative behavior and aggression variables; however, for the most part, aggression and negative behavior measures were positive predictors of social competence in both samples. We conclude that aggression and negative interactions per se need not be construed as evidence of low social competence for preschool children and that, to the extent that conflicts among preschoolers may be a source of social cognitive growth, such behaviors may have a positive impact on social development at these ages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-278
Number of pages34
JournalMerrill-Palmer Quarterly
Volume49
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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