Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

The Investigation of the Short-Term Effects of a Primary Prevention Program Targeting the Development of Emotional and Social Competencies in Preschoolers

Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

The Investigation of the Short-Term Effects of a Primary Prevention Program Targeting the Development of Emotional and Social Competencies in Preschoolers

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The last couple of decades have witnessed a constant increase in the number of adults, adolescents and children who experience different forms of mental problems. The seriousness of this phenomenon is further emphasized by the fact that those children, who present mental health problems at an early age are prone to develop serious mental health problems later in life. This situation compels for the development of efficient methods through which children may improve their abilities, and prevent possible malfunctioning. Consistent empirical research indicated that optimally developed emotional and social competencies, predict not only school-readiness, but also become protective abilities against the development of mental ill-health. Research has also evinced that preschool is one of the moments and contexts in which these abilities can be most efficiently improved. The major aim of the present study was to investigate the short-term effect of a preventive program, using a multi-assessment design. Our results indicate that besides the normal developmental pattern presented by the control group, our intervention had a significant short-term effect in the development of emotional and social competencies assessed both by educators and parents.

KEYWORDS: emotional competences, social competences, preschoolers, schoolreadiness, primary prevention

According to recent reports, the number of adults, adolescents and children who suffer from different mental disorders is in constant increase (Costello, Egger, & Angold, 2004; Cunningham, Rapee, & Lyneham, 2006; European Commission, 2005; Frankel, Boyum, & Harmon, 2004). Moreover, those individuals who present mental health problems at an early age are at high risk of developing maladaptive reactions later in life (Aviles, Anderson, & Davila, 2006).

In a similar vein, research has also found that the number of preschoolchildren who are not apt for the challenges imposed by the educational system is also considerably high. This aspect is extremely important if we take into consideration that approximately 80% of the variance in the academic results of fourth graders can be predicted by their performances in the first grade (U.S. Department of Education's Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, apud. Ionescu & Benga, 2007). Those children who are not ready to adapt to school context due to academic or social-emotional dysfunctions, are at high risk of developing further difficulties later in life (Rouse, Brooks-Gunn, & McLanahan, 2005; Sadowski, 2006).

Investigating the possible causes of early achievement gaps, education and research have started to identify the fundamental skills that contribute to a child's school readiness and early academic success (Thompson & Goodman, 2009). The core indicators of readiness include the following six main domains: child, family, community, health services, early care and education, and school (Thompson & Goodman, 2009). Regarding the child, the major indicators of school readiness referred to: physical well-being and motor development, social-emotional development, learning approaches, development of language skills, cognitive functioning and general knowledge (Thompson & Goodman, 2009). The National Education Goals Panel (NEGP, 1997) has outlined five major dimensions of school readiness: (i) health and physical development, (ii) emotional well-being and social competence, (iii) approaches to learning, (iv) communication skills, and (v) cognition and general knowledge. Consequently, one of the main objectives within research and intervention became the prevention of early school failure and the assurance of equal chances for as many children as possible (Ionescu & Benga, 2007).

Fortunately, research has indicated that a set of specific abilities that can constantly be optimized, is an important protective factor against the development of these problems (Kelly, Longbottom, Potts, & Williamson, 2005; Lavigne, Gibbons, Christoffel, Arend, Rosenbaum, Binns, et al. …

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