Investigating the stability of peer friendships amongst preschool children: a longitudinal South African study

Gordon, Sarah Louise (2018-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: There is robust empirical evidence for the benefits of friendships during childhood, including important mental, emotional and physical advantages (Betts & Stiller, 2013). Many parents of preschool children state that their aim for their children during preschool is to develop meaningful and lasting relationships with their peers (Gainsley, 2013). The present quantitative, two-wave longitudinal social network analysis investigated those factors that predict friendship formation amongst a sample of 59 South African preschool children aged four to six years old, and the extent to which these peer friendships are stable over a nine-month period. Data were collected via individual child-friendly interviews in which a peer nomination questionnaire was completed. Results show that, contrary to previous research, preschool children can reliably distinguish best-friendships from other friendships. Furthermore, boys, children in Afrikaans classes, and children who speak English as a home-language formed the most friendships over time, while girls, children in the older classes (aged five to six years old), and children in English classes became more popular over time. Reciprocal friendships were, as hypothesized, more stable than unidirectional friendships over time. Moreover, 38% of best-friendships were stable over time, compared to only 25% of other friendships that were stable over time. Friendship homophily effects for gender, age and school language were significant predictors of friendship formation, but did not predict friendship stability over time. Finally, despite the unique context of the preschool, where friendships are actively encouraged amongst the entire school population, the results indicate that children in this sample preferred to form friendships with children in the same classroom as them. This research contributes to the relatively sparse literature exploring the predictors of friendship and friendship stability amongst preschool children, both internationally and in the South African context. These findings can inform researchers, practitioners, and teachers and their efforts to design interventions that enhance social skills and promote friendship formation amongst preschool children.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Daar is sterk empiriese bewyse vir die belangrike verstandelike, emosionele en fisiese voordele van vriendskappe tydens kinderjare (Betts & Stiller, 2013). Verskeie ouers van voorskoolse kinders voer aan dat hulle doel vir hul kinders tydens voorskool is om betekenisvolle en blywende verhoudings binne hul portuurgroep te ontwikkel (Gainsley, 2013). Die huidige kwantitatiewe, twee-golf longitudinale sosiale netwerkanalise het ondersoek ingestel na die faktore wat die vorming van vriendskappe onder ʼn steekproef van 59 Suid-Afrikaanse voorskoolse kinders tussen vier en ses jaar oud, voorspel asook die mate waartoe hierdie portuurvriendskappe oor ‘n tydperk van nege maande stabiel is. Data is ingesamel deur middel van individuele kindervriendelike onderhoude, waarin ʼn portuurnominasie vraelys voltooi is. In kontras met vorige navorsing, dui die bevindinge van die huidige studie daarop dat voorskoolse kinders beste-vriendskappe van ander tipe vriendskappe op ʼn betroubare wyse kan onderskei. Verder, het dit geblyk dat seuns, kinders in die Afrikaans-medium klasse, en kinders wat Engels as ʼn huistaal praat, die meeste vriendskappe oor tyd gevorm het, terwyl meisies, ouer kinders (tussen vyf en ses jaar oud), en kinders in die Engelse-medium klasse, meer gewild geraak het met die verloop van tyd. Wedersydse vriendskappe was, soos gehipotetiseer, meer stabiel oor tyd in vergelyking met eenrigting vriendskappe. Hierbenewens was 38% van beste-vriendskappe stabiel oor tyd in vergelyking met slegs 25% van ander vriendskappe. Vriendskap-homofiliteitseffekte vir geslag, ouderdom en onderrigtaal was beduidende voorspellers vir die vorming van vriendskappe, maar dié faktore het nie die stabiliteit van vriendskappe oor tyd voorspel nie. Laastens, ten spyte van die unieke voorskoolse konteks, waar vriendskappe met kinders binne die hele skool aangemoedig word, dui die bevindinge daarop dat kinders in hierdie steekproef verkies het om vriendskappe te vorm met kinders wat saam met hulle in dieselfde klas is. Hierdie navorsing maak ʼn bydrae tot die relatief karige literatuur wat die voorspellers van vriendskappe en vriendskapstabiliteit onder voorskoolse kinders, beide internasionaal sowel as in die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks, verken. Hierdie bevindinge kan navorsers, praktisyns en onderwysers, sowel as hul pogings tot die ontwikkeling van intervensies wat sosiale vaardighede en die vorming van vriendskappe onder voorskoolse kinders bevorder, inlig.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/103423
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