Fellow 1998-99

Kelly Korinne Bost

Human Development & Family Studies

Young Children’s Social Adaptation in Context

Although it is widely recognized that children's socioemotional development occurs within a variety of contexts, questions and controversy remain regarding how factors along different socioecological parameters contribute to young children's emerging social relationships. The primary goal of this project is to examine factors associated with young children's social competence and aggression with peers in individual (child termperament and social cognition), dyadic (the quality of parent-child attachments and parent-child narratives about past events) and group (social networks and supports, neighborhood ecology and peer social structures) contexts. A theory-driven model positing relations among these factors will be tested with a sample of 3 to 5 year-old preschool children and their parents. Home and laboratory visits will index parent-child attachment behavior, and parent socialization goals. Additionally, child assessments will be obtained that include observations and interviews relevant to social competence and aggression. Children will also be interviewed about their social networks and sources of support.

Hypotheses derived from the theory-driven model posit that inputs into child social adaptation include the nature and quality of parent-child relationships and communication; resources/constraints that exist in the neighborhood in which the family is embedded; individual differences in child temperament and emotionality; children's social cognition; and the structure and function of children's social networks.

This project addresses factors related to the mental health and social functioning of children and families using a multi-method and multi-informant approach. To the extent to which these data document the salient mechanisms underlying the child's (in)ability to assemble and maintain adaptive social relationships, they inform both prevention and intervention efforts for families at risk for social disability.