Empirical relationships between developmental competencies and peer play behaviors with African-American Head Start children

Julia Laraine Mendez, University of Pennsylvania


School adaptation is an important national priority, particularly for children from low-income and minority backgrounds. Informing school readiness initiatives requires a detailed understanding of social competence among children at-risk for school difficulties. This study used a developmental theoretical framework and multivariate research methods to examine emerging capacities related to successful or unsuccessful peer play interactions for African American children within their classroom setting. Social competence was investigated with 141 urban Head Start children by (a) determining the unique variance associated with each child capacity in the areas of temperament, language, and self regulation, (b) determining multivariate relationships between child capacities and peer play, and (c) exploring age and gender variability within peer play, temperament, language, and self regulation. Factor analysis showed seven out of eight child capacities could be distinctively measured, as indicated by adequate specific variance for each variable. Canonical analyses revealed two significant canonical variates, named Interactive Competence and Overactive-Disruption. The Competence variate was comprised of strong positive loadings for Play Interaction, Adaptability, Approach, and Receptive Language, and negative loadings for Activity Level and Play Disconnection. The Overactive-Disruption variate was comprised of strong positive loadings for Play Disruption and Activity Level. Repeated measures ANOVA showed an Age x Gender x Play effect, with older females receiving higher scores than younger males on the Play Interaction factor, and younger males scoring higher than older males and younger females on Play Disconnection. No significant differences were found for Play Disruption. An Age x Temperament effect revealed that younger children received higher scores for Activity than older children. Conversely, older children received higher scores for Approach than younger children. No significant age differences were found for Adaptability. A second interaction, Gender x Temperament, showed males scored higher than females on the Activity factor. No significant gender differences were found for the Adaptability or Approach factors. No significant interactions were found for language or self regulation. Implications for future research and promoting interactive peer play in the classroom were discussed. This study also informs developmentally appropriate curriculum, mental health policy, and early childhood intervention among poor preschool children.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Quantitative psychology|Black studies|Social psychology|Early childhood education|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

Mendez, Julia Laraine, "Empirical relationships between developmental competencies and peer play behaviors with African-American Head Start children" (1999). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9926167.