Child Psychiatry and Human Development

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 29–44 | Cite as

Social competence in young children's peer relations: Patterns of development and change

  • Susanne A. Denham
  • Carolyn Zahn-Waxler
  • E. Mark Cummings
  • Ronald J. Iannotti


Patterns of developmental change and individual differences in social competence were examined in children of depressed and psychiatrically well mothers, during the toddler-to-late-preschool period. Forty-one children were observed in peer interaction at ages two and five under semi-naturalistic laboratory conditions intended to elicit a range of emotions and social skills. Social competence increased with age, but patterns of developmental change were moderated by maternal diagnosis. Low levels of individual stability were identified in children's social competence.

Key words

Maternal depression social competence preschoolers 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Cicchetti, D, Schenider-Rosen, K: An organizational approach to childhood depression. InDepression in Young People: Developmental and Clinical Perspectives, ed. Rutter, M., Izard, C. E., Read, P. B. New York: Guilford Press, 1986.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Waters, E, Sroufe, LA: Competence as a developmental construct.Develop Review 3:79–97, 1983.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Kopp, CB: Antecedents of self-regulation: A developmental perspective.Develop Psych 18:197–214, 1980.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Marcus, R: Naturalistic observation of cooperation, helping, and sharing and their associations with empathy and affect. InAltruism and Aggression: Biological and Social Origins, ed. Zahn-Waxler, C., Cummings, EM, Iannotti, RJ. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Sroufe, LA, Schork, E, Motti, F, Lawroski, N, LaFreniere, P: The role of affect in social competence. InEmotions, Cognition, and Behavior, ed. Izard, CE., Kagan, J, Zajonc, RB. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Rubin, KH, Daniels-Byrness, T, Hayvren, M: Social and social-cognitive correlates of sociometric status in preschool and kindergarten children.Canadian J of Behav Sci 14:338–348, 1982.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Kopp, CB: Regulation of distress and negative emotions: A developmental view.Develop Psych 25:343–354, 1989.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Erikson, EH:Childhood and Society (2nd ed.). New York: Norton, 1963.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Greenspan, S, Greenspan, NT:First Feelings: Milestones in the Emotional Development of Your Baby and Child. New York: Viking, 1985.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gunnar, MR., Senior, K, Hartup, WW: Peer presence and the exploratory behavior of 18- and 30-month-old children.Child Develop 55:1103–1109, 1984.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Holmberg, MC: The development of social interchange patterns from 12 to 42 months.Child Develop 51:448–456, 1980.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Rubin, KH, Watson, K, Jambor, T: Free play behaviors in preschool and kindergarten children.Child Develop 49:534–536, 1978.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Blurton Jones, N:Ethological Studies of Child Behavior. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Charlesworth, R, Hartup, WW: Positive social reinforcement in the nursery school peer group.Child Develop 38:993–1002, 1967.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Hartup, WW: Peer relations. InHandbook of Child Psychology: Vol. 4, Socialization, Personality, and Social Development, ed. Hetherington, EM. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1983.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Mischel, H, Mischel, W: The development of children's knowledge of self-control strategies.Child Develop 54:603–619, 1983.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Sullivan, HS:The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry. New York: Norton, 1953.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Cicchetti, D, Aber, JL: Early precursors of later depression: An organizational perspective. InAdvances in Infancy, Vol. 4, ed. Lipsitt, L Rovee-Collier, C. Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1986.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Radke, Yarrow, M, Cummings, EM, Kuczynski, L, Chapman, M: Patterns of attachment in two- and three-year-olds in normal families and families with parental depression.Child Develop 56:884–893, 1985.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Billings, AG, Moos, RH: Children of parents with unipolar depression: A controlled 1-year followup.Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 14:149–166, 1985.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Goodman, SH, Lynch, ME, Brogan, D, Fielding, B:The development of social and emotional competence in children of depressed mothers. Unpublished manuscript, 1989.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Weintraub, S, Neale, JM, Liebert, DE: Teacher ratings of children vulnerable to psychopathology.Am J of Orthopsychiat 45:838–845, 1975.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Weintraub, S, Prinz, R, Neale, JM: Peer evaluations of the competence of children vulnerable to psychopathology.J of Abnorm Child Psych 4:461–473, 1978.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Gotlib, IH: Self-reinforcement and depression in interpersonal interaction: The role of performance level.J of Abn Psych 91:3–13, 1982.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Gotlib, IH, Hooley, JM: Depression and marital distress. InHandbook of Personal Relationships: Theory, Research, and Interventions, ed. Duck, S. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 1988.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Libet, J, Lewinsohn, PM: The concept of social skill with special reference to the behavior of depressed persons.J of Consult and Clin Psych 40:304–312, 1973.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Weissman, MM, Paykel, ES:The Depressed Woman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Hokanson, JE, Sacco, WP, Blumberg, SR, Landrum, GC: Interpersonal behavior of depressed individuals in a mixed- motive game.J of Abn Psych 89:320–332, 1980.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Hops, H, Biglan, A, Sherman, L, Arthur, J, Friedman, L, Osteen, V: Home observations of family interactions of depressed women.J of Consult and Clin Psych 55:341–346, 1987.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Radke-Yarrow, M, Nottelmann, ED:Affective Development in Children of Well and Depressed Mothers. Paper presented at biennal meetings of the Society for Research in Child Development, Kansas City, MO, 1989.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Parke, RD, Bhavnagri, MP: Parents as managers of children's peer relationships. InChildren's Social Networks and Social Supports, ed. Belle, D. New York: Wiley & Sons, 1989.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Rubin, Z, Sloman, J: How parents influence their children's friendships. InBeyond the Dyad, ed. Lewis, M. New York: Plenum, 1984.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Howes, C.: Peer interaction of young children.Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 53 (1, Serial No. 217) 1987.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Cummings, EM, Iannotti, RJ, Zahn-Waxler, C: Aggression between peers in early childhood: Individual continuity and developmental change.Child Develop 60:887–895, 1989.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Spitzer, PL, & Endicott, J.Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia—Lifetime Version. New York: Biometrics Research Division, New York Psychiatric Institute, 1978.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Beck, AT, Ward, CH, Mendelson, M, Mach, JE, Erbaugh, J: An inventory for measuring child depression.Arch of Gen Psychiat 4:561–571, 1961.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Schork, E, Sroufe, LA:The Minnesota Preschool Affect Checklist. Unpublished manuscript. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1984.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Zahn-Waxler, C, Kochanska, G.: The development of guilt. InNebraska Symposium on Motivation: Socio-emotional Development, ed. Thompson, R. University of Nebraska Press, 1990.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Beardslee, WR, Bemporad, J, Keller, MB, Klerman G: Children of parents with major affective disorder: A review.A J of Psych 140:825–832, 1983.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Downey, G, Coyne, JC:Children of Depressed Parents: An Integrative Review. Submitted for publication, 1990.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Goodenough, FL:Anger in Young Children. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1931.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Parke, RD, Slaby, RG: The development of aggression. InHandbook of Child Psychology: Vol. 4, Socialization, Personality, and Social Development, ed. Hetherington, EM. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1983.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Cole, PM, Barrett, KC, Zahn-Waxler, C:Emotional Distress in 2-year-olds During Mishaps. Poster presented at biennal meetings of the International Society for Infant Studies Montreal, 1990.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Jacklin, CN, Maccoby, EE: Social behavior at 33 months in same-sex and mixedsex dyads.Child Develop 49:557–569, 1978.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Zahn-Waxler, C, Denham, SA, Iannotti, RJ, Cummings, EM.: Peer relations in children with a depressed caregiver. InFamily-Peer-Relationships: Modes of Linkage, ed. Parke, RD, Ladd, GW, in press.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Cummings, EM, Iannotti, RJ, Zahn-Waxler, C: Influence of conflict between adults on the emotions and aggression of young children.Develop Psych 21:495–507, 1985.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susanne A. Denham
    • 1
  • Carolyn Zahn-Waxler
    • 2
  • E. Mark Cummings
    • 3
  • Ronald J. Iannotti
    • 4
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentGeorge Mason UniversityFairfax
  2. 2.National Institute of Mental HealthUSA
  3. 3.West Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  4. 4.Georgetown UniversityWashington D.C.USA

Personalised recommendations