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Assessment of the prosocial behaviors of young children with regard to social development, social skills, parental acceptance-rejection and peer relationships.
Article Type:
Report
Subject:
Behavioral assessment (Methods)
Interpersonal relations (Psychological aspects)
Children (Behavior)
Children (Social aspects)
Author:
Gulay, Hulya
Pub Date:
09/01/2011
Publication:
Name: Journal of Instructional Psychology Publisher: George Uhlig Publisher Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education; Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 George Uhlig Publisher ISSN: 0094-1956
Issue:
Date: Sept-Dec, 2011 Source Volume: 38 Source Issue: 3-4
Topic:
Event Code: 290 Public affairs Canadian Subject Form: Behavioural assessment; Child behaviour
Geographic:
Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States

Accession Number:
289619978
Full Text:
The aim of the study was prosocial behaviors of 5-6 years old children were investigated with regard to parental acceptance-rejection, peer relationships, general social development and social skills. The participants of the study included 277 5-6-year-old Turkish children and their parents. The Child Behavior Scale, Social Skills Form, Marmara Developmental Scale (Social Development Subscale), The Victimization Scale and Parental Acceptance-Rejection Questionnaire (PARQ) (Mother Form Father Form) were used in the study.

Based on the study results, family variables (parental acceptance-rejection), different dimensions of social development (social development levels and social skills levels) and variables about peer relationships (aggression, exclusion, fear-anxiety, hyperactivity, victimization-distractibility) were determined to be highly associated with prosocial behaviors. The study results related to family variables revealed the significant effect of parental acceptance-rejection on prosocial behaviors.

Key words: Prosocial behaviors, social development, social skills, parental acceptance-rejection, peer relationships

Peer relationships are an effective tool in children's attainment of social, emotional, linguistic, mental and physical skills. Researches demonstrate that majority of these skills are acquired during peer interactions. Especially the peer relations in preschool period affect children's development both in this period and subsequent years to come (Buhs &Ladd, 2001; Ladd, Kochenderfer, & Coleman, 1996, 1997).

Peer relationships are shaped by various behaviors. One of these behaviors is prosocial behaviors, which indicate voluntary behaviors exhibited for the benefit of others and shaped by emotional consistency and social competence. These behaviors may include sharing, guiding, being polite, protecting from danger and violence, empathizing, collaborating, providing help and support. These behaviors not only constitute social skills but are also important components of social competence (Cunningham, 1993; Feldman, 2005; Gulay, 2010; Hawley, 2002; Hay & Pawlby, 2003; Musser & Diamond, 1999; Persson, 2005). Lack of positive social behaviors is the determinant of negative behaviors in ensuing years. It has been determined that children who exhibit harmful behaviors towards their environment tend to adopt less social behaviors. It has also been observed that children who develop positive social behaviors are satisfied with their life, establish long lasting friendships, are accepted and loved by their peers, become academically successful, and that collaboration and cooperation are experienced at a high level in peer groups participated by such children (Hay & Pawlby, 2003; Kostelnik et al., 2005; Ladd & Profilet, 1996).

There are several factors that affect the development of positive social behaviors: family, temperament, gender, age, cultural expectations, experience, and various social skills such as language and sharing. In this study, prosocial behaviors of 5-6 years old children were investigated with regard to parental acceptance-rejection, peer relationships, general social development and social skills.

Parents' behaviors that set an example for their children, the guidance, explanations and advices they offer to their children, and their reinforcement of positive behaviors affect the development of social behaviors. In addition, it is reported that sensitive, warm, considerate, receptive, responsible, protective and rewarding behaviors towards the child have an improving effect on positive social behaviors. Highly affectionate, receptive and democratic parental attitudes are known to support positive social behaviors. In terms of the relationship with the mother, children who build a confident bond with their mothers learn positive social behaviors more easily. The general family atmosphere (divorce, loss of a parent, disapproval of social behaviors, etc.) may also affect the development of these behaviors (Cole, Cole, & Lightfoot, 2001; Feldman, 2005; Grusec, Davidov, & Lundell, 2004; Kostelnik et al., 2005; Papalia et al., 2003; Parke et al., 2004; Penner et al., 2005; Smith, Cowie, & Blades, 2005; Staub, 2005; Wilburn, 2000; Volbrecht et al., 2007). Social skills like sharing and the expression of positive emotions have a function that enables interaction between social cognitive perception and linguistic competence and improves positive social behaviors. Besides, the expression of positive emotions is another factor that improves positive social behaviors (Kostelnik et al., 2005; Stefan, 2008; Wilburn, 2000). Peer relationships also affect prosocial behaviors. It is known that children, who behave in an aggressive and oppressive way towards their peers and who are exposed to the peer violence, experience problems in their social relationships and exhibit less prosocial behaviors (Ostrov et al., 2009).

As demonstrated above, prosocial behaviors in preschool period may have a long lasting effect in the entire life of a child and these is an interaction between these behaviors and different variables. Studies conducted in Turkey on peer relationships among children are very limited. Thus, the investigation of the prosocial behaviors of 5-6 years old children in a large sample group with respect to different variables will be important to set an example for future studies on the subject. The fact that preschool period prepares children to primary school education at the same time requires a detailed assessment of the development of behaviors in this period.

Method

Relational scanning method was used in this research in which prosocial behaviors of small children were examined with respect to different variables.

Participants

277 children from 5-6 years age group attending the kindergarten classes of primary schools affiliated with the Ministry of National Education in the province of Denizli in Turkey, and their parents (277 mothers, 277 fathers) participated in this research. 139 of the children were girls (50.2%) and 138 were boys (49.8%). The sample group was formed by random selection among the children of families who accepted to participate in the research. Average age of children was 5 years, 9 months, 3 days (not less than 5 years, 4 days; not more than 6 years, 7 months, 10 days).

Measurement Tools

Prosocial Behaviors with Peers, subscale of the Child Behavior Scale, was used in this research to determine the prosocial behaviors of the children. In addition, other subscales of the Child Behavior Scale were used for aggression, asocial behavior, exclusion, fearful-anxiety, hyperactivity-distractibility behaviors.

The Child Behavior Scale is a measurement tool developed by Gary W. Ladd and Suzan M. Profilet in 1996 to evaluate the peer relations of preschool children according to the information provided by teachers. The scale consists of six subscales and a total of 44 items. The subscales are as following: aggression with peers, prosocial behaviors with peers, asocial behaviors with peers, anxiety-fear, exclusion by peers, hyperactivity-distractibility (Ladd & Profilet 1996). In this research, all subscales of the Child Behavior Scale were used. All the items of the scale were evaluated according to the expressions "Never", "Sometimes", and "Always". The internal consistency coefficient of the subscale "Aggression with Peers" was .87, the internal consistency coefficient of the subscale "Prosocial Behaviors with Peers" was .88, the internal consistency coefficient of the subscale"Asocial Behaviors with Peers" was .84, the internal consistency coefficient of the subscale "Anxiety-Fear" was .78, the internal consistency coefficient of the subscale"Exclusion by Peers" was .89, and the internal consistency coefficient of the subscale"Hyperactivity-Distractibility" was .83 (Gulay, 2008).

The Victimization Scale is a measurement tool developed by Ladd and Kochenderfer-Ladd in 2002 on the basis of the self reports of 5-6 years old children. The scale was completed by teachers. The scale includes a total of four items, each of which focuses on one of the four types of peer aggression (physical, indirect, direct and general). Each item was evaluated with expressions "Never", "Sometimes" and "Always" (Ladd & Kochenderfer-Ladd 2002). Linguistic equivalence, reliability and validity studies of the scale were carried out by Gulay in 2008. Internal consistency coefficient of the scale was determined to be .72 (Gulay, 2008).

Parental Acceptance-Rejection Questionnaire (PARQ) (Mother Form-Father Form) was used to determine the parental acceptance-rejection of children.

Parental Acceptance-Rejection Questionnaire (PARQ) (Mother Form-Father Form): The questionnaire was developed by Rohner, Saavedra and Granum (1978). The questionnaire assesses acceptance-rejection as perceived by the mother and father. The scale consists of 56 items measuring 4 dimensions of the Parental Acceptance Rejection Questionnaire (PARQ):

a) Parental warmth and affection

b) Aggression and hostility

c) Neglect and indifference

d) Undifferentiated rejection

PARQ is a self-report questionnaire that can be applied to mothers and fathers. The scores change between 4-1, with 4 standing for "almost always true", and 1 standing for "almost never true". Scores change between 56 and 224. Higher scores indicate higher perceived rejection. It was translated and adapted into Turkish by Anjel (1993).

Social Skills Form: Social Skills Form was developed by Gulay (2004). The form includes 32 items. Each skill is evaluated in one of the following categories: "Always", "Sometimes" and "Never". The social skills form was formed by Calderalla and Merrell (1997) by using five sub-scales formed for social skills. The sub-scales and the sample social skills mentioned therein are as following (Calderalla and Merrell, 1997):

1. Skills associated with peers: Appreciating the friends, being sensitive to their feelings, asking for help when necessary, etc.

2. Self-control skills: Anger management, obedience to rules, conciliation with others, etc.

3. Academic skills: Independent working capability, asking for help in an appropriate manner when necessary, paying attention to directives, etc.

4. Accommodation skills: Sharing materials, fulfilling the responsibilities, etc.

5. Audacity skills: Attempt to talk to others, expression of feelings, inviting friends to play together, etc.

The Cronbach's Alfa reliability coefficient for the Social Skills Form was yielded as .95. The expert opinions of 7 lecturers from various universities were referred to for the validity and applicability of the form (Gtilay, 2004).

Marmara Developmental Scale (Social Development Subscale): The scale, which was used to measure the social development of the children participating into the study, was developed by Oktay and Bilgin Aydm in 2002. Marmara Developmental Scale was applied to evaluate children's skills in accordance with cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, physical development areas. The internal validity (reliability) of social development subscale was determined to be .97. The 44 items in the subscale were scored from 1 to 5 as "Never", "Rarely", "Sometimes", "Frequently" and "Always". Total scores varied between 44 and 220. The total score obtained from the scale revealed the Turkish children's social development observed by teachers in school environment.

Procedure

The Child Behavior Scale, the Victimization Scale, Social Skills Form and Social Development Subscale used in the research were completed by preschool teachers on the basis of their general observations about the children. As the research was conducted in the spring semester, the teachers knew the children for no less than 7 months and not more than 8 months. The teachers were informed before the research about the objective of the study and the measurement tools to be used. The Parental Acceptance-Rejection Questionnaire (PARQ) (Mother Form-Father Form) was completed by the children's parents under the guidance of the teachers. The parents were informed by the researcher about the scales and the objective of the research.

Data Analyses

Multiple Regression Analysis was performed to evaluate the prosocial behaviors of children receiving preschool education in terms of the variables of mother acceptance-rejection, father acceptance-rejection, social development levels, social skills level, aggression, asocial behavior, exclusion, fearful-anxiety, hyperactivity and victimization.

Results

As shown in Table 1, a high level of interactive and positively significant relationship was found between prosocial behaviors and mother acceptance-rejection, father acceptance-rejection, social development levels and social skills level (p < .001). It was observed that the above mentioned variables showed an increase with the increase in the level of prosocial behaviors, or these variables showed a decline with the decrease in prosocial behaviors. A high level of interactive and positively significant relationship was found between prosocial behaviors and aggression, asocial behavior, exclusion, fearful-anxiety, hyperactivity and victimization (p <.001). These variables decreased with the rise in the level of prosocial behaviors, and increased with the decline in the level of prosocial behaviors.

Table 2 shows that the multiple regression models were significant (p < 0.01). As demonstrated by the results, variables of mother acceptance-rejection, father acceptance-rejection, social development, social skills, aggression, exclusion, fearful-anxiety, hyperactivity, victimization-distractibility levels reveal a highly significant relationship with prosocial behaviors. The results indicate that the selected variables all together predict 63 % of prosocial behaviors. All these variables have a significant predictor effect on prosocial behaviors. Besides, the variables on individual basis may significantly predict prosocial behaviors. When variables are ranked in terms of their predictive effect on prosocial behavior, it is observed that the variable of social development levels ranks the first, which is followed by social skills levels, victimization, asocial behavior, father acceptance-rejection, fearful-anxiety, mother acceptance-rejection, exclusion, aggression and hyperactivity, respectively.

Discussion

Based on the study results, family variables (parental acceptance-rejection), different dimensions of social development (social development levels and social skills levels) and variables about peer relationships (aggression, exclusion, fear-anxiety, hyperactivity- distractibility, victimization) were determined to be highly associated with prosocial behaviors. It was also established that the chosen variables all together predict small children's prosocial behaviors in a significant way.

The studies conducted on the subject also show parallelism with the results obtained from the present study. It is known that social behaviors and skills like empathy have a positive effect on prosocial behaviors as well as social skills and social competence (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998). A positive relationship is reported between peer relationships and prosocial behaviors (Findlay, Girardi, & Coplan, 2006). Children who frequently exhibit prosocial behaviors are more popular in peer relationships and preferred more by their peers (Goossens, Bokhorst, Bruinsma, & van Boxtel, 2002). Children's positive interaction with adults and peers also improves their prosocial behaviors (Carpendale & Lewis, 2004). On the other hand, it is observed that behavioral problems such as aggression, introversion, hyperactivity and anxiety as well as positive social interactions and social behaviors have a negative effect on prosocial behaviors. For example, aggressive children develop less prosocial behaviors such as empathy and thus rejected by their peers (Porath, 2003). Researchers (Crick & Dodge, 1994; Lemerise &Arsenio, 2000) have emphasized that social skills also include social problem solving skills, which lead to successful peer relationships and reinforce skills like prosocial behaviors. The results of this research have demonstrated that prosocial behaviors are directly affected by social development levels, social skills and variables about peer relationships such as aggression. That is to say, children who have social skills and high level of social development, who are not aggressive, who are not excluded, who are not shy, fearful-anxious and hyperactive, and who are not exposed to the peer violence, are able to exhibit prosocial behaviors more frequently. From a general perspective, all variables are closely related to social relationships. Therefore, they interact with each other. Social skills can diminish negative behaviors like aggression or shyness. An aggressive child may be exposed to the peer violence due to behavioral problems and eventually fail to exhibit prosocial behaviors. Since a shy child will experience problems in exhibiting social skills, he/she will fail to acquire these skills and thus won't be able to have a healthy social development. Children who are exposed to the peer violence may be shy or aggressive and may be excluded by their peers. This negative situation in their social relationships will have a negative effect also on their social skills and social development. It is evident that the factors of social development are not independent from one another. Positive skills and behaviors may reduce negative behaviors and increase peer acceptance. Similarly, negative skills and behaviors may reinforce other negative behaviors and skills.

The study results related to family variables revealed the significant effect of parental acceptance-rejection on prosocial behaviors. The quality of mother-child relationship may affect all areas of development of a child. A mother-child relationship shaped by warm, close and receptive attitudes is reflected on the child's social competence as well as academic success and emotional adaptation (Burchinal, Peisner-Feinberg, Pianta, & Howes, 2002; Morrison, Rimm-Kauffman, & Pianta, 2003). Child care and education based on affectionate and sensitive parental attitude support social competence, social skills and positive behaviors (Thompson, & Raikes, 2005). Studies conducted in different cultures (Moreno, Klute, & Robinson, 2008; Robinson Robinson, Zahn-Waxler, & Emde (1994); Robinson & Eltz, 2004; Zhou et al., 2002) have established that child care based on harsh, remote and negatory attitudes has a negative effect on children's prosocial behaviors especially empathy. Liu et al. (2009), in their two-year study, monitored 94 Chinese mother-child pairs that included children between 2-4 years of age. It was determined in this study by Liu et al. that the structure of mother-child relationship and the supportive and encouraging attitude of the mother toward the child reinforce children's prosocial behaviors and reduce their levels of aggression. The results of the present study conducted in the Turkish culture show parallelism with the results obtained in other cultures. The warm, affectionate and receptive attitudes of the Turkish parents help children to develop prosocial behaviors. Besides the psychological strength provided by parental love and support, such positive attitudes of adults set a positive model for their children and reinforce the attainment of prosocial behaviors. Repudiative and negative attitudes based on parental control set negative behavioral examples for children, decrease their self-confidence and cause them to develop negative self-perception. These children, who experience problems also in their relationships with their parents, may develop troubled relationships with their peers (Valiente et al., 2004).

The major limitation of this study is the variables chosen for the assessment. In societies like Turkey where the number of studies on the prosocial behaviors of small children is limited, short and long term studies should be conducted with different variables and different sample groups. The children included in the research lived with their parents. In future studies, prosocial behaviors of children with a single parent may be investigated to establish the development process of these behaviors in more detail. Furthermore, programs preventing the social skill incompetence and social development problems in small children, or intervention programs specifically for these problems should be developed and their efficacy should be established. Educators should collaborate with families in reinforcing children's attainment of skills and behaviors such as prosocial behaviors which are important for social development.

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Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Hulya Gulay at hulya.gulay@gmail.com

Hulya Gulay, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, Department of Preschool Education, Pamukkale University.
Table 1
Descriptive Statistic, Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations
Matrix

                                    M       SD      1.      2.

1. Prosocial behaviors            24.42    5.18   --
2. Mother acceptance-rejection    85.17   21.98    .35 **   --
3. Father acceptance-rejection    90.29   24.30    .40 **    .73 **
4. Social development            179.99   32.96    .52 **    .17 **
5. Social skills                  80.06   13.78    .47 **    .07
6. Aggression                      9.15    3.03   -.55 **   -.14 *
7. Asocial behavior                9.25    3.09   -.48 **   -.10
8. Exclusion                       8.48    2.57   -.56 **   -.18 **
9. Fearful-anxiety                12.22    3.34   -.54 **   -.14 **
10. Hyperactivity                  6.44    2.38   -.58 **   -.16 **
11.Victimization-                  4.62    1.48   -.47 **   -.10
Distractibility

                                 3.        4.        5.        6.

1. Prosocial behaviors
2. Mother acceptance-rejection
3. Father acceptance-rejection   --
4. Social development             .22 **   --
5. Social skills                  .10       .51 **   --
6. Aggression                    -.22 **   -.32 **   -.28 **   --
7. Asocial behavior              -.08      -.33 **   -.34 **   .24 **
8. Exclusion                     -.17 **   -.36 **   -.30 **   .52 **
9. Fearful-anxiety               -.28 **   -.28 **   -.32 **   .51 **
10. Hyperactivity                -.26 **   -.39 **    .66 **   .66 **
11.Victimization-                -.17 **   -.30 **    .55 **   .55 **
Distractibility

                                 7.       8.       9.       10.

1. Prosocial behaviors
2. Mother acceptance-rejection
3. Father acceptance-rejection
4. Social development
5. Social skills
6. Aggression
7. Asocial behavior              --
8. Exclusion                     .58 **   --
9. Fearful-anxiety               .49 **   .62 **   --
10. Hyperactivity                .33 **   .46 **   .50 **   --
11.Victimization-                .34 **   .52 **   .42 **   .44 **
Distractibility

                                 11

1. Prosocial behaviors
2. Mother acceptance-rejection
3. Father acceptance-rejection
4. Social development
5. Social skills
6. Aggression
7. Asocial behavior
8. Exclusion
9. Fearful-anxiety
10. Hyperactivity
11.Victimization-                --
Distractibility

Note: N=277 * p<.05 ** p<.001

Table 2
Results of Multiple Regression Analysis for Predicting Prosocial
Behavior

Variables                              b        T

1. Mother acceptance-rejection        0.11    2.047 *
2. Father acceptance-rejection        0.13    2.240 *
3. Social development                 0.16    3.423 **
4. Social skills                      0.15    3.201 **
5. Aggression                        -0.12   -2.039 *
6. Asocial behavior                  -0.12   -2.348 *
7. Exclusion                         -0.12   -.2.041
8. Fearful-anxiety                   -0.11   -2.062 *
9. Hyperactivity                     -0.11   -2.034 *
10. Victimization- Distractibility   -0.12   -2.376 *

R = .79 [R.sup.2] = .63
F(10.276 = 44.71 2**

Note: N=277 * p<.05 ** p<.001
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