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Co-operation in infant peers.

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Throughout the world, infants and toddlers are spending less time with mothers and more time with peers than ever before, mainly in different kinds of day care. This changing pattern of child care may affect the early development of social competence which is seen as important for social, emotional and intellectual growth. It would therefore be valuable to know in what way different aspects of social competence are influenced by mothers and by peers. The degree of compliance shown by infants and their ability to co-operate in tasks and games have been found to be important indices of social competence. This study observed 48 infants in dyadic interaction, first with their mothers (Situation 1) and then with a familiar peer (Situation 2), as they engaged in a co-operative game. The aim was to assess differences, similarities and possible continuities between the mother-infant and peer systems in children of four age groups (AGs) : AG1 - 37 to 61 weeks7 AG2 - 62 to 86 weekS7 AG3- 87 to 111 weeks7 AG4 - 112 to 136 weeks. Recording was by videotape. Analysis involved the coding of 56 behaviours in three broad areas : mothers' teaching behaviours, children's behaviours with mothers, and peer behaviours. The group was composed of singletons (N=34) and twins (N=14). Singletons were observed over all four age groups, twins over AG1 and AG2 only, and sexes were analysed separately over AG3 and AG4. Behaviours were also compared over both Situations. Reliability was calculated in three ways, giving means of intra- and inter-observer agreement of .92, .82 and .87. Meaningful groups of behaviours were analysed with two-tailed tests of significance. Univariate analysis with multiple independent variables were used for singletons' behaviours over all age groups. Behaviours showing significant differences were analysed for trend and for differences between age groups. Manovas were used for all other comparisons. Correlations were examined between selected behaviours. Differences in mothers' teaching strategies over the age groups were found. Two behaviours which did not show age-related or situation- related differences are discussed, as well as different reactions to these behaviours by mothers and peers. Findings from research with singletons were comfirmed. Differences were found between the behaviours of mothers of singletons and mothers of twins, which suggest that the mothers of twins are not as skilled as mothers of singletons in playing with one child in a dyadic situation. Findings by Savic (1980) are confirmed that twins find the peer situation less stimulating than singletons do, and that twins are more advanced than singletons are in social competence. Sex differences were found suggesting that boys are involved in more active experiences, whereas girls are associated with more passive ones. Analysis of sequences of behaviours suggested that this method was more suitable than analysis of discrete interactions for the observation of complex behaviours such as engagement. It also showed that game-playing did not have the same characteristics in the mother-infant and the peer situations, and comparisons with other research findings are made. No indication was found that the skills taught by mothers were carried over entirely without modification to the peer situation, but other suggestions of possible continuities are discussed. Children's game-playing behaviours were found to be extensions of their own creativity as apparently elicited by experience with peers. The effect on this creativity of the existence and the quality of peer friendships is discussed.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of Natal, Durban, 1983.


Infant psychology., Theses--Psychology.