Dynamics of Young Children's Socially Adaptive Resolutions of Peer Conflict

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Abstract

How do young children negotiate conflicts with peers that result in mutually beneficial resolution and peaceful interaction after conflict? A few studies suggest that when children use conciliatory strategies in conflict, socially adaptive outcomes are more likely to be achieved. The present study explores the relative associations of types of children's conciliatory conflict resolution strategies (i.e., prosocial, compliance-oriented, solution-oriented, and verbal clarification/apology) with conflict outcomes to contribute to knowledge of the discrete behaviors that might have salience for conflict resolution training. Socially adaptive conflict outcomes were expected to strongly relate to children's resolution strategies of a prosocial nature as well as to teacher or peer interventions encouraging prosocial behavior or empathy. Sampled conflicts (N = 521) were collected through field observations of 107 ethnically/racially and socioeconomically diverse four- to seven-year-old children. Logistic regression analyses with bootstrap-based inference suggested that children's prosocial behaviors in conflict were most strongly tied to mutually beneficial resolution and peaceful postconflict interaction, when controlling for relevant covariates. Other conciliatory strategies varied in their association with socially adaptive outcomes. The hypothesis regarding third-party interventions encouraging prosociability or empathy could not be examined due to infrequent occurrence. Insights for future research on children's socially adaptive conflict negotiations are discussed.

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