Developmentally Appropriate Practice

НазваниеDevelopmentally Appropriate Practice
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Social and emotional development

Parents and teachers are delighted but some­times frustrated by preschool age children's social and emotional characteristics. From ages 3 to 5, young children make great advances in their relationships with others, their self-understanding, and their ability to understand

Developmentally Appropriate Practice, 3d Edition


The Preschool Years

and regulate their emotions. The path is bumpy, however; all preschoolers continue to struggle with social and emotional issues. Carlos avoids playing with others; sociable Lisa sometimes hits her playmates when they don't go along with her ideas; Kirsten can't calm down after an exciting morning.

To support this developmental process, relationships with caring adults within a qual­ity early childhood environment are critical. This support is important for all children but especially for those whose social and emotional development may be at risk because of dis­abilities or because of difficult circumstances in their family or community environments.

Positive social and emotional development in the preschool years will provide an essential foundation for cognitive and academic compe­tence, not only in preschool but also in later years (McClelland, Morrison, & Holmes 2000; Blair 2002; Raver 2002; Zins et al. 2004). More than ever, early childhood educators recognize that these aspects of development must be given the same level of focused attention and planning as is given to children's literacy devel­opment or their understanding of mathematical concepts.

The preschool years are now seen as the key period for establishing positive attitudes and behaviors about learning. These attitudes and behaviors are closely related to social and emotional development but affect virtually all aspects of children's development and learn­ing. In 1997 the National Education Goals Panel identified "approaches to learning" as one of its five components of school readiness. Many states now include this approaches to learning domain as its own category in their early learn­ing guidelines.

Approaches to learning include children's enthusiasm for learning (i.e., interest, pleasure, and motivation to learn) and their engagement in learning (i.e., ability to focus attention, per­sist, be flexible, and regulate thoughts, feelings, and behavior) (Hyson 2008). Children who are enthusiastic about and engaged in learning are likely to be more successful learners, not only in preschool but in later years, as well (Fantuzzo, Perry, & McDermott 2004; McClelland, Acock, & Morrison 2006).

Children may be born with a basic tempera­ment, but they are not born with positive or negative approaches to learning. Their experi­ences at home and in early childhood programs can either support or undermine this enthusi­asm and engagement.

Social development

During the preschool years, children truly come into their own as social beings. "My friend" is a phrase used proudly by a 3-year-old, even if the child does not yet have a full understanding of the concept of friendship. In preschool, chil­dren also become better able to sustain close relationships with adults other than their par­ents—most important, their teachers (Howes & Ritchie 2002).

Out of the many aspects of preschool­ers' social development, four are sketched out in this section: (1) children's social interac­tions, relationships with teachers and peers, and friendships; (2) development of prosocial behavior; (3) aggression and other challenging behaviors; and (4) sense of self in relation to others.

Social interactions, relationships with teachers and peers, and friendships. Most pre­schoolers live in a wider social world than they did before age 3. Even those who have been in child care since infancy are now much more aware of and connected to other children and adults beyond their immediate family. Preschoolers often have close relationships with their teachers, developing attachments that are similar but not identical to those they have with their parents (Howes & Ritchie 2002). Such relationships can be rich and valuable. Preschoolers who have positive relationships with their teachers are likely to be more inter­ested and engaged in school, and they are more likely to be socially competent in later years (Howes 2000; Morrison 2007).


Developmentally Appropriate Practice, 3d Edition

The Preschool Years

Peers also take on more importance dur­ing the years from 3 to 5. Most children interact much more with other children than when they were toddlers, and they interact in more com­plex ways (Rubin, Bukowski, & Parker 2006). Although many continue to play alone or in parallel to classmates (Rubin &Coplan 1998), preschoolers become increasingly able to enter and remain involved in mature sociodramatic play—that is, able to agree about the topic of the play Q'You be the driver and I'll be the lady going to the store, okay?"), to take on more com­plex roles, and to sustain the play with other children for longer periods of time (Bodrova & Leong 2007). Extensive involvement in sociodra­matic play not only builds preschoolers' social skills but also is associated with better language and literacy skills, self-regulation, and later

school achievement (Rubin, Bukowski, & Parker 2006).

Preschool children generally value their friendships. At this age, most children have friends, though not necessarily a best friend. Friendship skills are important: Children who have an easier time making friends are likely to be more self-regulated and to have a bet­ter understanding of others' thoughts and feelings. All is not smooth in preschool friend­ships, however; children have more conflicts with friends than with other children, in part because friends spend more time together. Still, preschoolers are likely to solve conflicts with their friends in nonaggressive ways, and they cooperate more with their friends than with children who are not their friends (Fabes et al. 1996; Rubin, Bukowski, & Parker 2006).

Developmentally Appropriate Practice, 3d Edition


The Preschool Years

During the preschool years, children's language development and their growing social understanding also allow them to have conver­sations with their peers, chatting about events of interest and adjusting their talk to make them­selves better understood (Rubin, Bukowski, & Parker 2006).

Development of prosocial behavior. When children act prosocially, they voluntarily assist others out of concern for others' well-being— behavior that has been called "caring, sharing, and helping" (Mussen & Eisenberg-Berg 1977). Between ages 3 and 6, children begin to show more frequent prosocial behaviors (Eisenberg, Fabes, & Spinrad 2006). Seeing a classmate starting to cry when her father leaves, 3-year-old Leslie may give her friend a hug; by age 5, Leslie may use comforting words or suggest a game she knows her friend usually enjoys.

There are many reasons for this increase in prosocial behaviors. Among them, children's cognitive development allows them to better understand others' feelings, and preschoolers have had many more experiences that contrib­ute to their social understanding. Plus, adults usually expect more helpful behavior from chil­dren after age 3.

But it's also the case that some preschool children are more prosocial than others, and such differences are likely to carry over into later years. Those preschool children who are more self-regulated seem better able to focus on others' distress, making plans and taking action to help when needed. Children who have warm, secure relationships with their parents, and when parents help the children notice others' distress and support their children's helping behavior ("Look, I think Ron is a little worried about coming in. Can you find something for him to play with?"), are likely to continue to be helpful (Eisenberg, Fabes, & Spinrad 2006). And children who are in high-quality early childhood programs, and who have secure attachments to their preschool teachers (Howes, Matheson, & Hamilton 1994), are more likely to be prosocial and considerate of other children.

Aggression and other challenging behav­iors. Compared with their behavior as toddlers,

children over the age of 3 are less likely to have tantrums or other outbursts when they are frustrated, and they are less likely to hit or fight with other children. Conflicts over possessions continue to trigger aggressive behavior, along with differences of opinion between children.

In the preschool years, relational aggres­sion (e.g., being mean or excluding another child) becomes another way of expressing aggressive feelings (Crick, Casas, & Mosher 1997). Children may use their improved cogni­tive and language skills as tools to intentionally hurt others' feelings ("You can't come to my birthday party" "Your hair is ugly"). This rela­tional bullying, as well as physical bullying, may be seen toward the end of the preschool years (Hanish et al. 2004), having potentially negative effects on both the bully and the bullied child.

Many things influence whether preschool­ers are likely to use aggression and other chal­lenging behaviors. Young children who have so-called difficult temperaments are more likely to react aggressively (Rothbart & Bates 2006), as are children who tend to be impulsive, irri­table, and easily distracted. Without interven­tion, their aggressive responses are likely to continue into later childhood and adolescence, often leading to more serious antisocial difficul­ties (Tremblay et al. 1994). Additionally, some preschoolers have great difficulty processing information about situations involving other children's motives. For example, some children interpret social situations in overly negative ways. They are more likely to attribute hostile intentions to other children's actions ("Zach tripped meF) instead of assuming otherwise (Crick & Dodge 1994).

Sense of self in relation to others. Long before they reach preschool, children recog­nize themselves and have become self-aware. Children ages 3 to 5 are gaining a more fully developed sense of who they are, although this sense is still quite concrete. When asked, "Who are you?" 3-year-old Gus says, "I have two fish," "I'm really strong," and "I have black hair." Older preschoolers are beginning to add psychologi­cal descriptors: Five-year-old Denise says, "I'm


Developmentally Appropriate Practice, 3d Edition

The Preschool Years

nice to my friends" (Harter 1999). Preschoolers' views of the self are usually all-or-nothing; at this age, children find it difficult to think that they could have opposing characteristics or feelings (e.g., being sometimes nice and some­times mean).

These self-descriptions develop into a sense of self-esteem, which is the child's own internal evaluation or judgment about her or his worth and competence. Preschoolers typi­cally evaluate themselves differently in differ­ent areas: Five-year-old Robert might report that he is really good at soccer but not good at counting, for example. It is only in later years of childhood that children develop a more general sense of being competent and worthwhile over­all—or incompetent and not worthwhile.

Children get these beliefs about themselves primarily from noticing how others see them— adults as well as other children. In preschool and beyond, children who feel supported and accepted by adults, and who have secure attachments to adults, are likely to have higher self-esteem (Verscheuren, Marcoen, & Schoefs 1996; Harter 1999). In contrast, a young child who has been maltreated may tend to develop a sense of himself as a person who is not lovable and is incompetent (Harter 2006).

Culture also influences young children's developing sense of self, as many cultures emphasize collective or group worth rather than worth based on individual accomplish­ment (Rogoff 2003).

Another aspect of preschoolers' emerging sense of self is their feeling about the reasons for their success or failure at various tasks, such as completing a challenging puzzle. In general, children of this age are optimistic about their chances of success and believe that success will come if they keep trying. For this reason, it used to be thought that preschool children paid little attention to failure. However, more recent research shows that some pre­school children already react negatively to the possibility of failure. Whereas Emily persists with her art project even when the pieces don't stick together well, Laura avoids even trying

the project, and Ben gives up at the first sign of difficulty (Dweck 2002). As with many other aspects of children's social and emotional (and cognitive) development, the kind of feedback preschoolers receive from adults has a strong influence on these kinds of beliefs and behavior (Hyson 2008).

Emotional development

Over the past 15 years, much greater atten­tion has been given to preschoolers' emotional development. Many researchers believe that preschoolers' positive and negative emotions serve important functions, motivating every aspect of their development and learning (e.g., Campos et al. 1994; Denham 1998; Saarni 1999). Feelings of interest, pleasure, and curiosity encourage children to explore their world and motivate them to solve problems. Similarly, strong feelings of sadness, fear, or anger may cause children to avoid certain kinds of learning situations or relationships.

From ages 3 to 5, children gain much greater understanding of these and other emo­tions. Their ability to talk about emotions increases, and they become better able to regu­late their expressions of emotion and develop a clearer sense of right and wrong. Finally, all children encounter stressful events, but during the preschool years, adult support helps them learn new coping strategies and build resilience.

In this section, of three aspects of pre­schoolers' emotional development are sketched out: (1) development of emotional competence; (2) development of conscience; and (3) stress, coping, and resilience.

Development of emotional competence. Emotions are present and important from infancy onward. But compared with younger children, preschoolers are able to express more complex "social" emotions such as pride, guilt, and shame and to do so with a broader rep­ertoire of facial expressions, gestures, words, and symbols (e.g., think of a 4-year-old's crayon drawing of someone who is "mad"). Most chil­dren now are able to describe or label feelings

Developmentally Appropriate Practice, 3d Edition


The Preschool Years

QT'm a little scared of that dog"), identify others' emotions, consider why others may feel that way, and express their anger or distress in more acceptable ways (Denham 1998; Hyson 2004; Saarni et al. 2006).

These abilities build an important founda­tion for children's school readiness and school success. Young children who cannot manage or regulate negative emotions or who have great difficulty understanding and responding to oth­ers' feelings do not do as well in school as chil­dren more emotionally competent (Raver 2002), and they are likely to be less socially competent and generally less well-adjusted.

Children's temperaments and their cul­tural context certainly influence how they express their feelings (Kitayama & Markus 1994; Rothbart & Bates 2006). But as with other aspects of development, what happens in chil­dren's families has a major influence. Different families have different ways of expressing feel­ings, and these influence their children's expres­sive styles (Halberstadt & Eaton 2002). Warm parents who help children understand and deal with their emotions have more emotionally competent children. In contrast, harsh or reject­ing parenting and the experience of frequent conflict and angry adult outbursts undermine


Developmentally Appropriate Practice, 3d Edition

The Preschool Years

children's development in this area (Saarni et al. 2006). Early childhood teachers also play an important part in affecting preschoolers' emo­tional competence. For example, preschoolers who had close relationships with their teachers continued to have close teacher-child relation­ships even five years later (Howes 2000).
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