About this Research Topic
The peer group is one of the main contexts for social development from an early age. Entering preschool represents for many children the first opportunity to interact in a consistent manner with a large number of peers. These interactions are influenced by past and anticipated future exchanges and are broadly defined as either cohesive or dispersive. With time they are integrated at individual and dyadic levels, giving rise to a social structure composed of multiple relationships. Individual differences should, thus, be understood in the light of this complex web of relationships and the social roles children occupy within the peer group.
Although the study of peer interactions and friendships has long demonstrated the weight of the peer group, most studies on young children's social development still focus on individual characteristics and neglect the relational constraints inherent to the peer group ecology. Nevertheless, a few recent studies have used current advances in the field of social network analysis to study the structural processes in the origin and development of affiliative structures in preschool peer groups. Still, compared with older age-group samples, we know little about the selection and influence/socialization aspects of peer groups in preschool children or the outcomes associated with specific roles within the peer group. Also, the discussion as to whether cohesive and dispersive exchanges are integrated into a single omnibus social structure, or, in independent structures is still open for debate.
Therefore, we welcome submissions of Original Research, Systematic Reviews, Methods, Reviews, Mini-Reviews, Brief Research Reports, addressing how social relationships both facilitate and constrain the social development of preschool children. Topics may include, but are not limited to:
• Developmental outcomes (e.g., social competence, social engagement, emotional regulation) and their association with structural features of peer groups;
• Influence processes in peer groups;
• Interplay of cohesive and dispersive social structures;
• Attachment relationships and its relationship with social roles within the peer group;
• Longitudinal analysis of peer groups’ social structures;
• Teachers’ “invisible hand” in structural features of peer groups;
• Social network-based interventions;
• Original methods for describing social structures in peer groups;
• Comparison of child and teacher-based reports of social structures.
Keywords: affiliative structures, peer relationships, peer influence, peer selection, preschool children, social development, social networks
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