Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Differences in Social Skills of Cypriot Students in the Physical Education Class

Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Differences in Social Skills of Cypriot Students in the Physical Education Class

Article excerpt

Introduction

Social development during childhood is considered one of the greatest challenges in today's education. Although the school environment can tremendously influence student social development, the efforts for the achievement of this goal appear to be unsuccessful or incomplete. As a result, many countries raise concern about the ongoing student problem behaviours (De Jong, 2005), and report high bullying in elementary school (Wong, Lok, Lo, & Ma, 2008). Recent studies in Cyprus provide similar evidence about student problem behaviours (e.g., Stavrinides, Paradeisiotou, Tziogouros, & Lazarou, 2010) as well as their relation with the increasing ethnic diversity (e.g., Zembylas, Michaelidou, & Afantintou-Lambrianou, 2010).

Researchers realized that social skills development can affect, in short and long terms, the life of students (Gülay & Akman, 2009), and since 1970s, focusing attention towards prevention, suggested that they should be addressed systematically at early ages (Zsolnai & Jozca, 2003). Social skills may be viewed as observable and learned sets of self and interpersonal behaviours (e.g., goal setting, cooperation) that lead to desired social outcomes (Hay, Payne, & Chadwick, 2004). This conceptualization was verified by research studies which demonstrated that inadequate acquisition and performance of social skills is often associated with negative outcomes (mental, externalizing, and internalizing problems) such as negative peer interactions (Hay et al., 2004), rejection, depression, and loneliness (Cole & Carpentieri, 1990; Parkhurst & Asher, 1992). Negative peer relations and child loneliness, in turn, are related to negative behaviour at home and school, respectively (e.g., Stormshak & Webster-Stratton, 1999). Also, negative social behaviours are related to a continuous poor student adjustment (Morgan & Merier, 2008) and achievement in school (Hung & Lockard, 2007). In contrast, acquisition of social skills has been often associated with positive peer relationships, and assimilation and adaptation of social behaviour (Parker & Asher, 1987). In general, positive social behaviours and interactions have been found to affect children's social, emotional and academic adjustment, as well as their educational success (Hay et al., 2004). The above relations could be explained by the point of view that inadequate social skills are the cause and effect of behavioral and emotional problems. Within a vicious circle, poor social skills, for instance, cause an increase in problem behaviours, which also causes the continuation of poor social skills (Merell & Gimpel, 1998).

The acquisition and performance of social skills seems to be directly associated with social cognitive development or social cognition, a process which allows the development of social competence. Being summative and others-based, social competence is comprised of social skills and indicates the degree of one's adequacy in applying them. This process may be considered a specific application of Bandura's (1986) social cognitive theory (Merrell & Gimpel, 1998).

Factors such as age and gender are among the important considerations in social skills development. Based on the aspects of social cognitive development that relate to social competence (Eisenberg & Harris, 1984), upper elementary school children acquire quality problem-solving skills (Pelligrini, 1980) as well as cooperative and supportive communications (Keane & Cogner, 1981). Also, their friendship patterns are characterized by an increased concern about self-presentation and peer acceptance (Goldstein & Gallagher, 1992). Adolescents develop further their social skills, since their cognitive and social capabilities mature. That reflects to the increasing complexity and number of their positive social communications (Eisenberg & Harris, 1984) and solutions to social problems (Pelligrini, 1980). They also rely on self-, rather than peer-oriented friendship patterns which enable them to discover their personal identity (Gottman, 1986). …

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