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Early Family Experience, Social Problem Solving Patterns, and Children's Social Competence

Gregory S. Pettit, Kenneth A. Dodge and Melissa M. Brown
Child Development
Vol. 59, No. 1 (Feb., 1988), pp. 107-120
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1130393
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1130393
Page Count: 14
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Early Family Experience, Social Problem Solving Patterns, and Children's Social Competence
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Abstract

The relations among early social and familial experience, social problem solving skill, and social competence in the classroom were examined in a sample of 46 preschool (4- and 5-year-old) children from economically distressed backgrounds. The hypothesis was tested that (a) early family experiences would be related to classroom social competence, and (b) that this relation would be mediated by the child's social problem solving patterns. Early experience was assessed during a semistructured home-visit interview with each child's mother. Measures derived from this interview included the child's level of exposure to deviant aggressive models, maternal values and expectations for the child, harshness of discipline toward the child, use of preventive teaching with the child, and the child's degree of early experience with peers. The child's classroom competence was assessed by sociometric nominations and teacher ratings of aggressiveness and social skill. Responses to hypothetical social problems were used to generate measures of the child's social problem solving patterns. Several dimensions of family experience were found to be predictive of both classroom social competence and social problem solving. Stepwise regression analyses revealed that some kinds of early experience (e. g., early experience with peers) appeared to have a direct impact on peer outcomes, whereas for other experiences (e. g., exposure to deviant maternal values and expectations), the relation to social competence with peers was mediated by the child's social problem solving skills and patterns. The need to consider family relationship factors when designing preventive intervention programs for socially incompetent children was stressed.

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