Examining Preschool Children’s Intention Understanding and Their Conflict Resolution Strategies

  • Patrick PiengEmail author
  • Yukari Okamoto


The present study investigated if preschool children’s intention understanding could predict their use of other-oriented conflict resolution strategies. Participants were 30 preschool children (13 girls, Mage = 4.46 years, SD = 0.73, range: 3.21–5.50 years). The children were observed for their conflict resolution strategies during freeplay at school for one 30-min session per day on three separate days. Conflict resolution strategies were coded into two broad categories: “self-oriented strategies” that did not recognize the opponents’ needs and wants, and “other-oriented strategies” that took into account others’ perspectives. To assess children’s understanding of intentions, children were presented with three sets of story pairs adapted from Astington and Lee’s (What do children know about intentional causation? Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, WA, 1991) study. After controlling for age and language ability, children with more robust understandings of intentions tended to utilize greater percentages of other-oriented resolution strategies during peer conflicts. Implications for how early childhood educators can support young children’s understanding of intentions and conflict resolution behaviors are discussed.


Theory of mind Intention Social cognition Conflict resolution Peer conflict Preschool-age children 



This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.California State University, SacramentoSacramentoUSA
  2. 2.University of California, Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA

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