Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Solitary-Active Play Behavior: A Marker Variable for Maladjustment in the Preschool?

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Solitary-Active Play Behavior: A Marker Variable for Maladjustment in the Preschool?

Article excerpt

Abstract. This study explored the construct of solitary-active play as a behavioral marker for maladjustment in the preschool. One hundred fifty-three children were observed during free play in preschool over a two-week period. Additional measures included parental ratings of child temperament and attitude towards school, teacher ratings of behavior problems, and child interview assessments of vocabulary and academic achievement. Results indicated that, as compared to their peers, children who frequently engaged in solitary-active behaviors were temperamentally less attentive, more difficult to soothe, behaved more shyly, displayed more externalizing problems, performed more poorly on assessments of early academic shills, and had a less positive attitude towards school. Results are discussed in terms of the potential of solitary-active behavior to act as a marker variable for various forms of social and academic maladjustment in the preschool.

More young children than ever before are attending educationally based early childhood programs (Kostelnik, Soderman, & Whiren, 1993). Results from recent research indicate that in the United States, 37% of 3-year-olds, 58% of 4-year-olds, and 90% of 5-year-olds were enrolled in preprimary education programs (Snyder & Wirt, 1998). The increasing number of children exposed to these programs has led to concerns regarding the impact of early childhood education on children's social and cognitive functioning. Researchers have addressed issues such as the quality of the program (e.g., Bryant, Burchinal, & Lau, 1994; Bryant, Peisneer-Feinberg, & Clifford, 1990), characteristics of the teacher-child relationship (e.g., White, 1993; Whitebrook, Howes, & Phillips, 1990), and individual characteristics that may affect children's adaptation to the pre-primary environment (e.g., Coplan, Barber, & Lagac-Seguin, 1999; Fox & Field, 1988).

How children play in the preschool is considered a good indication of adaptation to the early education classroom. More specifically, it has been recently demonstrated that various forms of nonsocial play behaviors evidenced during free play with peers in the preschool may serve as indicators of different forms of social and emotional maladjustment in this milieu (Coplan, 2000). The goal of the present study was to explore the relationship between a specific form of nonsocial play--solitary-active behavior--and indices of maladjustment in the preschool.

Maladjustment in the Preschool

For the majority of children, preschool is a positive and influential experience that provides opportunities for rewarding peer interactions. However, the transition to preschool is not an easy one for some children. Estimated proportions of children experiencing adjustment difficulties when starting school vary from 13% to 30% of the population (Dohrenwend et al., 1980; Hughes, Pinkerton, & Plewis, 1979). Moreover, preschool behavioral dysfunction beyond the initial adaptation period is quite common (Earls, 1980; McGuire & Richman, 1986; Richman, Stevenson, & Graham, 1975, 1982).

Although prevalence estimates may vary as a function of theoretical and methodological frameworks, the typical reported rates for general adjustment problems from epidemiological studies of preschoolers are between 15% to 20% (Earls, 1980; Jenkins, Bart, & Hart, 1980; Richman et al., 1975). Moreover, results from longitudinal studies indicate that about 40% to 50% of children experiencing behavioral problems in preschool continue to exhibit some form of dysfunction over two- to five-year follow-up periods (Campbell, Ewing, Breaux, & Szumowski, 1986; Chazan & Jackson, 1974; Garrisson & Earls, 1985; Richman, Stevenson, & Graham, 1982). Lerner, Inui, Trupin, and Douglas (1985) reported that preschoolers exhibiting significant behavioral dysfunctions were at least two times as likely to develop specific adult psychiatric disorders. …

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