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Observed quality of classroom peer engagement in a sample of preschoolers displaying disruptive behaviors


The current study used naturalistic observations to explore the peer engagement of 428 preschoolers whom teachers identified as displaying elevated levels of disruptive behavior. Children's peer sociability, communication, assertiveness, and conflict were independently observed as they naturally occurred in the classroom throughout the preschool year. Data were analyzed to examine patterns of peer engagement, explore variability across time and classroom context, and identify associations between disruptive behavior type and peer engagement quality. Results showed that, on average, children were not engaging in high-quality peer interactions nor were they displaying significant levels of negative peer engagement. There was no linear change in peer engagement quality across the year, but positive and negative peer engagement patterns varied substantially across children. Children's peer engagement was of higher quality when in unstructured settings and when teachers were less directive of activities. The relationship between disruptive behavior and peer engagement differed based on the nature of the disruptive behavior displayed – positive peer engagement was positively associated with hyperactivity and negatively associated with inattention, and negative peer engagement was positively associated with oppositionality. Results highlight the low level with which children are interacting with peers (both positively and negatively) in the preschool classroom and suggest that preschoolers who are perceived as disruptive are not yet engaging in a significant degree of negative peer interaction. Implications for the understanding, structure, and management of the preschool classroom are discussed in relation to both practice and research. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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