Examining the Permanence of the Effect of a Social Skills Training Program for the Acquisition of Social Problem-Solving Skills

Article excerpt

People who form childrens' social environments, including parents, teachers, and friends, play an important role in the acquisition of social skills. When children start walking and talking, their social environment broadens and they will, therefore, interact more often with adults and children; and, consequently, will encounter various examples of positive and negative behavior. Positive--or prosocial--behaviors include cooperation, collaboration, waiting one's turn, sharing, and reasoning through discussion, while antisocial (negative) behaviors include crying, throwing tantrums, and physical and oral aggressiveness. The question of which set of behaviors the children will adopt depends predominantly on the behavior models that they encounter in their environments (Bayhan-San & Artan, 2004; Erden & Akman, 1996; Selguk, 1996).

The skills that can be used to form the basis of a behavioral scheme throughout life are learned when children are very young. The preschool period in particular is the time when these behaviors are formed. The behaviors acquired during this period are believed to be important in one's future life. That is why it is important that children obtain social competence during the preschool period. A training program will strengthen the social skills of children during preschool and early school, and improve their strategies for solving social problems, interacting with other children, and skills for understanding others' feelings (Johnson, 2000; Webster-Stratton, 2006; Webster-Stratton, Reid, & Hammond, 2001). A social skills education program for children has been prepared based on Bandura's social learning theory (Bandura, 1977). This theory focuses on modeling, imitating, observing, and reinforcing behaviors, which have been found to have significant effects on learning these behaviors. In the program appropriate and inappropriate behavior models are shown to children, and are explained in terms of the consequences of appropriate and inappropriate behaviors (Bacanli, 2002; Green & Piel, 2002; Morgan, 2004; Senemoglu, 2003).

Children tend to solve problems they encounter in their daily lives in ineffective ways and then turn these into habits by using them repeatedly. One of the most significant causes of recurrent ineffective problem-solving behaviors is thought to be mislearning and, even if only used occasionally, this provides reinforcement for the acquired behavior. For example, a child using strength or force as a behavior to get a friend's toy may sometimes achieve their goal. Therefore, using strength or force can become a reinforced behavior. The general aim of the social skills education program is to provide children with prosocial solutions instead of ineffective antisocial solutions to deal with the problems they encounter in their daily lives which can lead them to find an alternative way to act when faced with a social problem (Adams & Wittmer, 2001; Erwin, 1994, 2000; Erwin, Kathryn, & Purves, 2004; Ogulmus, 2006; Omeroglu & Kandir, 2007).

The 22-week Social Skills Training Program for Children (Webster-Stratton, 2004) was administered to 6-year-old children in order to develop their social skills, comprehension of others' feelings, and skills in relation to solving social problems. According to the results of previous studies, the Social Skills Training Program for Children has been found to be effective in the development of these skills in children aged 60-72 months (Dereli, 2008; Dereli & Ari, 2009).

The aim of this study was to test the permanence or continuity of effects, of the Social Skills Training Program for Children.

METHOD

This research was designed as an experimental study, comparing by t tests the posttest mean scores of an experimental and a control group in relation to social problem solving and understanding others' feelings by using two tests--the Wally Child Social Problem-Solving Detective Game Test and the Wally Understanding Feelings Test (Webster-Stratton, 1990). …