Title

How the Number of Adults in Household Influences Children’s Social Competence: Implications for At-Risk Interventions

Location

Harborside Center East and West

Strand #1

Family & Community

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills

Relevance

This study examines the influence of a “Home” factor (Strand V), the number of adults present in a child’s household, on children’s “Heart” aspect (Strand II), which is comprised of teachers’ ratings of children on the Social Competence and Behavior Evaluation (LaFreniere & Dumas, 1995). This study supports that at-home conditions greatly impact students’ behavior in the classroom, successfully linking two elements prominent in children’s social emotional development. The findings provide educators and student advocates with further considerations to evaluate when implementing pertinent interventions for at-risk children.

Brief Program Description

This study examined the impact of the number of adults in a child’s home on their classroom behaviors. Head Start teachers completed Social Competence and Behavior Evaluations (SCBE, LaFreniere & Dumas, 1995) to rate children’s behaviors in classrooms. Findings of this research have the potential to further inform professionals of at-risk children’s degree of need for critical intervention.

Summary

Past research indicates that caregivers have a strong influence on preschool children’s social competencies. In a sample of African American children, Washington et al. (2014) discovered that paternal involvement was significant in predicting child competence, while maternal involvement only positively correlated with competence establishment. Perlman et al. (2007) found that both parents and siblings have a substantial impact on young children’s conflict strategies, particularly assertiveness and consistency. Additionally, given the increase of single-parent families and maternal employment, Dunifon (2013) examined the influence of grandparents on child development and established that three-generational families often fare just as well as nuclear ones, though ethnic differences exist. Furthermore, a study of instable homes found that the frequent transition of adults in and out of the home negatively influenced young children’s cognitive scores (Mollborn et al., 2012). Dunifon and Kowaleski-Jones (2007) evaluated children who lived with a single mother and grandparent and found that Caucasian children in these circumstances possessed greater scores on reading and cognitive measures than those living only with a single mother. Moreover, Washak et al. (2014) stated that children’s consistent relationships with multiple caregivers also initiated a greater likelihood for secure attachment establishment. As shown previously, these varying conditions of preschoolers’ home environments have the potential to impact their developing social competence. To evaluate social competency in a classroom setting, the Social Competence and Behavior Evaluation (SCBE) (LaFreniere & Dumas, 1995), completed by teachers, has been successfully utilized (Kotler & McMahon, 2002; LaFreniere et al., 2002). The current study examined specifically the impact of the number of adults in at-risk children’s households on their 12 SCBE scale scores. Children were three and four year-olds, predominately African American and of low SES. The outcome of the study provides specific information on critical components of children’s social competence and behavior in relation to the number of adults living with them. This data provides another factor for educators, school psychologists, and other child advocates to reflect on in considering at-risk populations for valuable and necessary interventions, particularly those aiding in social emotional development.

Evidence

Participants were 64 three and four year-olds (27 females, 37 males) in a southeastern Head Start early learning center and their parents. Number of adults in household data was collected from a portion of a parental survey distributed through the center. To analyze children’s behavior in the classroom, teachers completed a SCBE for each child. Each evaluation was scored, and multiple regression analysis was used to test whether the number of adults in children’s homes significantly predicted their scores on each SCBE scale. It was revealed that numbers of adults in household significantly predicted boys’ general adaptation (β = -.454, p = .006) and social competence (β = -.539, p = .001), as well as their levels of autonomy (β = -.376, p = .026), integration (β = -.431, p = .01), joyfulness (β = -.45, p = .007), and security (β = -.388, p = .021). However, the number of adults in household did not significantly predict preschool girls’ scores on the SCBE scales. These findings could indicate that boys are more inclined to act out when residing in an unstable or crowded household. Inconsistent discipline practices and the lack of ideal role models for these children may be additional reasons for the detrimental effects of many adults in a child’s household. The absence of male authority figures in this population should also be taken into account, as official guardians were predominately single mothers. These findings further separate those in at-risk populations by the unique measure of number of adults in household, enabling professionals to gain even more insight into which children are most in-need of a social emotional intervention.

Format

Poster Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Amelia Fitch is a senior Psychology major at Georgia College & State University, thoroughly involved in research on the social emotional development of at-risk preschoolers. Recent research projects include analysis of gender stereotypes in African American parents and the influence on children’s toy selection. She is also involved in an empathy training program for three and four year-olds which further incorporates an early literacy component. In addition, Amelia has been involved in a cognitive and decision making laboratory as well as research on behavioral pharmacology. Amelia is particularly interested in contemporary issues in education, seeking a degree in applied developmental psychology as well as licensure as a school psychologist. She hopes to promote positive psychological outcomes in at-risk children by serving as an advocate for this population in educational settings.

Kelsey Van Boxel is a senior Psychology major, with a Spanish minor, at Georgia College and State University. She has participated in three research teams over the past two years. Her experiences have involved working with faculty on research involving empathy training in preschool aged children, investigation of family values across cultures, and academic resilience of at-risk adolescent populations. Kelsey is interested specifically in the effects of parental beliefs and behaviors on children’s development and social emotional competence. Having a great deal of experience working with children, Kelsey aspires to help at-risk and disordered children cope and overcome adversity. She plans to advance her education by pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in developmental psychopathology. Kelsey aims to continue exploring these areas of study in graduate school with further emphasis on treatments and interventions.

Elizabeth Cason is a junior Psychology major with a pre-occupational therapy concentration at Georgia College and State University. She is currently participating in her first research team which is studying empathy training for three and four year olds. She hopes to use this experience as a stepping stone to continue research in the field of social emotional development. Elizabeth chose to pursue research in the field of developmental psychology because of the participants’ need for treatment at a vulnerable stage in their lives. She plans to advance her education by pursuing a master’s degree in Occupational Therapy to help clients of all ages learn to manage or overcome mental and physical disabilities.

Candace Cosnahan is a senior Psychology major at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia. She is involved in a Developmental Research Lab where her interests are social-emotional competence and the presence of siblings in children, and in a Social Research Lab where her interests include inducing mindfulness and studying how it impacts a person's life physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. She has currently combined these two research interests in a study that induces mindfulness in children to study the impacts of executive functioning in this group. Her future plans are to continue to integrate her interests in children and mindfulness in graduate school.

Tsu-Ming Chiang, Ph.D., Professor of Psychological Science, has been teaching at the Georgia College & State University (GC&SU) for 21 years. Dr. Chiang received her Ph.D. from University of Wyoming in Developmental Psychology in 1992. She has devoted her research in understanding children’s social emotional development and parental-child relationships for the past 25 years. She conducted several cross-cultural studies on parental beliefs and children’s social emotions in response to infraction of standards. An article entitled “Maternal attributions of Taiwanese and American toddlers’ misdeeds and accomplishments”, was published in the Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology, 2000. Dr. Chiang’s primary research is to examine how to improve young children’s social emotional competence in preschools and in the Head Start programs that serves underprivileged children. She received the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2006 and Undergraduate Research Mentor awards in 2012, 2013 and 2014. She establishes a laboratory in a community Early Learning Center where she connects college students to work with children in the community. One of the major goals for her research and teaching is to promote children’s social and emotional competence.

Keyword Descriptors

social emotional development, family, gender, social competence, at-risk preschoolers

Presentation Year

2015

Start Date

3-3-2015 4:00 PM

End Date

3-3-2015 5:30 PM

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Mar 3rd, 4:00 PM Mar 3rd, 5:30 PM

How the Number of Adults in Household Influences Children’s Social Competence: Implications for At-Risk Interventions

Harborside Center East and West

This study examined the impact of the number of adults in a child’s home on their classroom behaviors. Head Start teachers completed Social Competence and Behavior Evaluations (SCBE, LaFreniere & Dumas, 1995) to rate children’s behaviors in classrooms. Findings of this research have the potential to further inform professionals of at-risk children’s degree of need for critical intervention.