Academic journal article Education

Parents' Play Beliefs and the Relationship to Children's Social Competence

Academic journal article Education

Parents' Play Beliefs and the Relationship to Children's Social Competence

Article excerpt

Play and Social Competence

Researchers have put much emphasis on the positive and significant role of children's social and emotional development. Children with better social-emotional competence are more likely to develop positive attitudes about school, adjust to school, participate in school, initiate and sustain new friendships (Ladd, Birch, & Buhs, 1999; O'Neil, Welsh, Parke, Wang, & Strand, 1997; Shields, Dickstein, Seifer, Giusti, Magee, & Spritz, 2001).

Generally speaking, social competence is defined as the ability to adjust personal behaviors and display appropriate social behaviors that enable an individual to maintain effective social interactions and positive relationships with others in certain social contexts (Wagenfeld, 2005; Wentzel, 2005). Because young children frequently engage in play, their social competence refers to the ability to meet social goals, enter established play groups, initiate play, and give appropriate responses to peers (Howes & Matheson, 1992). According to Saracho & Spodek (1998), socially competent children are those who "exhibit a positive demeanor around or toward other, have accurate social information processing abilities, and display social behaviors that lead them to be well liked by others (p. 118)".

The association between play and the development of social competence has been found (Howes, 1992; Singer & Singer, 2005). At the beginning of play, social strategies are required to gain entry into a play group (Fromberg, 2002). During play, with certain social knowledge and an appropriate use of social skills are important to maintain social interactions with playmates. Through play, children learn to develop play themes together, see things from others' points-of-view, cooperate and negotiate with each other, regulate personal emotions and behaviors, and understand the rules of play (Isenberg & Jalongo, 2001; Klugman & Smilansky, 1990). Several studies (e.g., Connolly & Doyle, 1984; Flannery & Watson, 1993; Rubin & Hayvem, 1981) have found that social dramatic play is positively related to peer acceptance and social skills. Rough-and-tumble play is beneficial to friendships and pro-social behaviors (Scott & Panksepp, 2003). Farmer-Dougan and Kaszuba (1999) reported that children who engaged in pretend play were more likely to be socially competent with peers and adults.

Parents' perceptions of play affect their behaviors in establishing children's learning environment and quality of play in the home setting (Farver & Wimbarti, 1995; Haight, Parke, and Black, 1997). Parents who value the contributions of play to children's development were more likely to provide children with a variety of props, encourage children to play with peers, participate in play activities, and facilitate child play (Farver & Howes, 1993; Farver, Kim, & Lee, 1995; Liau's, 1994; Pan, 1994; Parmar, Harkness, & Super, 2004). The more parents value and support child play, the more advantages that their children will gain from play. The correlation between parental beliefs or behaviors toward play and children's social competence has been emphasized (Ladd, 1992). Fogle and Mendez also (2006) found that maternal rating of Play Support was positively related to ratings of children's interactive peer play.

Most researchers only investigated parental believes about play without examining the relationship between their play believes and children's development. Thus, the purpose of the study was to examine the relationship between parents' perceptions of child play and children's social competence.


Population and Sample

To ensure a greater variability in parental socio-economic background, the participants were recruited from three kindergartens in Taiwan. Among the three kindergartens, two were located in Hsinchu County, where parents generally had lower socioeconomic status while one was located in Hsinchu City, where parents generally had higher socioeconomic status. …

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