Friendship quality and social development in preschool children -
POCTI/PSI/46739/2002 (From 2002 to 2007)

Research Team:

António Santos (Project Leader)
Manuela Veríssimo
Inês Peceguina
João Daniel

Project's Summary:

Making and keeping friends is a life-span developmental task that is related to general psychosocial adjustment, to feelings of well-being, and to feelings of ‘connectedness’ with others from early childhood through old age. Having friends and being a friend are considered generally positive qualities, but recent reviews and descriptive empirical studies have also pointed out that having the ‘wrong’ friends or participating in ‘low quality friendships’ can promote sub-optimal developmental trajectories. There is, however, relatively little research evidence documenting the formation and maintenance of friendships varying in terms of “quality,” and even less research has focused on potential influences of friendship quality over significant periods of time in stable and changing groups of young children. Furthermore, several influential reviewers have bemoaned the fact that very few studies of children’s friendships adopt experimental designs to test hypotheses concerning the role of friendship (or friendship quality) as a determinant of developmental outcome. Finally, studies of friendships rarely attempt to coordinate this domain with other relational dimensions salient to children, such as social dominance and affiliation.

Project’s aims:

This project is proposed as an effort to provide both descriptive and (quasi)-experimental data concerning antecedents to, correlates of, and outcomes associated with participation in a range of friendships in a large sample of preschool-age children (N = 300). Both cross-sectional and longitudinal samples will be assessed. Observations of peer-directed behavior, interviews, and adult ratings (teacher, parent) will be used to characterize individual differences in children’s social competence, social dominance and affiliation with peers. Friendship dyads will be determined on the basis of sociometric and/or proximity data (as appropriate for children of different ages). Outcome measures will include assessments from domains of peer social competence, social interactions with friends and acquaintances in natural and laboratory contexts, competition and aggression based social hierarchies, affiliative structure and stability of friendships over time.

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