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Theoretical and Empirical Framework of Study

Brenda K. Bryant
Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development
Vol. 50, No. 3, The Neighborhood Walk: Sources of Support in Middle Childhood (1985), pp. 6-13
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/3333843
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3333843
Page Count: 13
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Theoretical and Empirical Framework of Study
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Abstract

This report documents children's perception of their involvement with self-development, family members, and members of the community and begins to test the relation between that network and aspects of social-emotional functioning during middle childhood. Support was conceptualized to include experiences of both relatedness to and autonomy from others. Three major types of reported support in this study using the Neighborhood Walk were considered: others as resources (e.g., persons in the peer, parent, and grandparent generation; pets), intrapersonal sources of support (e.g., hobbies; fantasies-structured and unstructured; skill development), and environmental sources of support (e.g., places to get off to by oneself; formally sponsored organizations with structured and unstructured activities; informal, unsponsored meeting places). One hundred sixty-eight children (72 7-year-olds and 96 10-year-olds), residing in nonmetropolitan and rural northern California and representing all but the lowest Hollingshead socioeconomic status, participated in this study. To assess their sources of support at home and in the neighborhood/community, each of these 168 children was taken on a Neighborhood Walk, and then several measures of social-emotional functioning were administered. Cross-sectional data form the empirical basis for a developmental perspective on sources of support, the structure of social-emotional functioning, and the relationship between sources of support and social-emotional functioning during middle childhood. The child's perception of support was found relevant to predicting the social-emotional functioning of children growing up in relatively secure and low-stress conditions in modern American society. Furthermore, a broad-based as opposed to a limited network and informal as opposed to formal sources of support were more predictive of social-emotional functioning. The empirical and theoretical relevance of considering middle childhood as a period of active development involving expansion and integration of social and affective phenomena was underscored by the results. First, it appears that the 7-year-olds have not yet developed the underlying response or habit clusters that characterize the 10-year-olds. Second, with respect to reported sources of support, 10-year-olds appear to have more elaborated sources of support than do 7-year-olds. Third, the findings confirm that developing a bridge to extended family and neighborhood resources is related to expressions of social-emotional functioning during middle childhood and that 10-year-olds appear to make effective use of more social support factors than do 7-year-olds. Finally, family size and sex of the child were key factors that interacted with specific types of support to predict social-emotional functioning.

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