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What role does peer interaction play in early childhood socialization?

Table of Contents

1. Peer socialization
1.1. Current state of research on the topic
1.1. Definition - socialization
1.2. Definition - Peers and Peers
1.3. Importance of peers for socialization in early childhood
1.3.1. Communication, play and learning processes in asymmetrical relationships
1.3.2. Communication, play and learning processes in symmetrical relationships

2. Peer socialization in early childhood
2.1. Socialization among peers in the "infant and toddler" age group
2.2. Socialization among peers in the "child" age group

3. Friendship as a special form of peer relationship in early childhood
3.1. Group competence in early childhood
3.2. "Friendship" - definition of terms
3.3. Friendship building

4. Support of peer relationships through pedagogical (specialist) staff

5. Bibliography

1. Peer socialization

“Maxi (19 months) and Julia (20 months) are standing by the wooden grille that surrounds the protruding radiator. Both children look at each other briefly and, as if on command, begin to wiggle the bars and laugh and jump around loudly. (...) Out of the corner of your eye you look at the teacher. She makes eye contact, she pretends to be 'angry' and says with exaggerated emphasis: 'But children, you shouldn't always wiggle the bars!' The two children cheer, run away laughing and plop down on the mattress. ”(Wüstenberg & Schneider, 2010, p. 75)

This short, sequential description of a situation in a day-care center shows mutual joy about “making nonsense” together, playing together, and that the two children have understood the actually applicable rules and can deal with them in an open, playful way. It also becomes clear that a non-verbal communication has taken place, an understanding about the common "course of the game" and thus a common action emerges. Similar situations, in which children interact with each other, occur very often in day-to-day care facilities, which seems only logical when children are cared for in a group of children. If one compares these shared play and interaction moments created among children, large differences can quickly be found in terms of the extent of mutual enjoyment, the joint activities and the agreement of the interests of the participants, which in turn shows that conflicts can arise in the event of conflicting interests and their solution depends on the communicative, cognitive and especially social skills of the children involved.

The following work shows to what extent this topic has been or is a research question in recent years and what significance peers have for the development of precisely these skills, i.e. what role they play in the socialization of a child. For this purpose, the basic terms "socialization" and "peers" or "peers" are first defined and the development of interaction and play between the child and peers and the "socialization skills" that develop there in early childhood are shown, as well as "friendship" “Defined as a high quality relationship between two children. This work concludes with principles of pedagogical action, which professionals should integrate into their actions in order to support children in their relationship with other children and thus in their socialization.

1.1. Current state of research on the topic

If one examines the question of the extent to which peers play a role in the child's socialization process and the individual develops sociality and empathic behavior, it can be stated that this has only recently come back into the focus of research and is the result of a general reconsideration of the Pedagogy is based on the small child with its psychological and sociological predispositions and development opportunities. (Hammes- Di Bernardo & Speck-Hamdan, 2010, p. 9). "The social world of children of the same age as a topic of developmental psychology and socialization research has gained in importance in recent years." (Krappmann, 1998, p. 356). The boom in German peer-to-peer studies can be seen in the 1980s (Reinders, 2015, p. 393), before that there was especially the child-family relationship and the role of the adult as a “social counterpart” (Hammes- Di Bernardo & Speck-Hamdan, 2010, p. 9) or older children and young people and their relationships with their peers and the group processes taking place in the foreground (Brandes, 2010, p. 16).

In the meantime, peer relationships and peer groups are also seen as important developmental resources for toddlers and preschoolers (ibid.) And the special value of social experiences for the entire child's development, especially the dependence of physical, mental and emotional development on social relationships, is rated much higher (Kobelt Neuhaus, 2010, p. 48).

1.1. Definition - socialization

The Marburg psychologist Detlef H. Rost defines socialization in his concise dictionary Pedagogical Psychology as the process of human development in dealing with the social and material environment ("external reality") and the natural dispositions and physical and psychological constitution ("internal reality") ) (Rost, 2001, p. 669). Philip Zimbardo also takes up this discussion, but at the same time emphasizes the “corresponding standards of a particular society” and illustrates the social and cultural character of individual behavioral patterns, values, standards, skills and motives (Zimbardo, 1995, p. 80).

In the following, the “external reality”, including the social environment, is focused on, which in children is largely represented and influenced by other children, a high proportion of their peers or peers.

1.2. Definition - Peers and Peers

“Peers” generally refers to a group of people who are the same or similar age as the person in question. Socialization research specifies this term, based on Bronfenbrenner, on the group of people with whom an individual actually or very likely has direct social contact or with whom this would be possible (Reinders, 2015, p. 396).

A simple translation of the “peer group” with the term “peer group” is not sufficient to describe the full range of conditions and processes that children seek and experience with children (Hammes- Di Bernardo & Speck-Hamdan, 2010, p. 8 ), because “peer” initially only means a person who is similar to another person in terms of (social) status, values ​​or activities (Hartup, 2005, p. 387ff.). This means that these are not necessarily “peers”, even if this fact is very likely. Rather, the similarity in developmental psychology and, accordingly, the comparability of the level of development, interests, gender and social status are in the foreground. “A peer is the peer accepted as an interaction partner with whom the child is in principle willing to come to an agreement in recognition of the respective interests.” (Krappmann, 1998, p. 364) This definition clearly describes the qualitative expansion of the “peer” - term and the associated willingness to negotiate one's own intentions to act in the same direction and in agreement with the peer. Dominance and conflict resolution should be avoided if possible (Krappmann, 1998, p. 355ff.).

In the context of this work, the terms “peers” and “peers” are equated due to the use of the same meaning in everyday jargon, and in this context they both imply, in addition to the structural description of a social relationship, the just listed qualitative elements that define the demarcation This relationship is illustrated by other social forms (Reinders, 2015, p. 396).

1.3. Importance of peers for socialization in early childhood

“The playmate (...) is both similar to and different from the child's self. He is like him because he is equal in ability or knowledge; quite different, however, precisely because it is on the same level and does not penetrate into the interior of desires or into the perspective of one's own thinking like a superior adult. "(Piaget, 1972, p. 72)

This definition of a "playmate", which can also be applied to a "peer" due to the analogous similarity in content, clearly shows the different basic structures of communication in child-child interaction on the one hand and parent-child interaction on the other. While the former is characterized by a mutual, mutual negotiation process, which is why one speaks of a “symmetrical-reciprocal relationship” between peers, the “asymmetrical relationship” between adults and children is much more like “guided learning” (Kobelt Neuhaus, 2010, p . 53). The peculiarities of the communication, play and learning processes in these (a) symmetrical partnerships and their significance for the socialization of children are examined in more detail below.

1.3.1. Communication, play and learning processes in asymmetrical relationships

This form of interaction is given when the more competent person in this relationship gives the “learner” guidance or assistance, takes over the leadership or guidance or the structuring of the joint activity (ibid.). In this form of relationship, the child only has the opportunity to take on the role offered by the adult or to do what is asked of him or to refuse. The elements of this relationship are not reciprocal and knowledge is acquired by the child by using the learning opportunities given to him, which are ideally appropriate for development by the adults, and integrating the resulting experiences into his thoughts, actions and feelings (ibid.). Piaget emphasizes, however, that the authority of adults to develop the sense of justice is insufficient and that this develops only in proportion to the progress of cooperation among children and the development of mutual respect among them (Piaget, 1986, p. 377f.).

1.3.2. Communication, play and learning processes in symmetrical relationships

Symmetrical relationships are characterized by a common occupation of the children with and a reciprocal relationship to one another (ibid.). The peer group offers exactly this type of interaction and makes the experience of a “non-hierarchical”, in principle equal relationship possible without knowledge, power and experience advantages of those involved (ibid.). In the form of consensual understanding, children acquire knowledge, thoughts and feelings in dealing with others by communicating and cooperating with their partner on the basis of equality (Krappmann & Oswald, 1995, p. 21), and thus interpret a “shared reality” ( Kobelt Neuhaus, 2010, p. 53), a "third point of view", in which the previous ideas of the individual partners are included, but which ultimately represents a qualitatively new and really common design product. Exploration methods, interpretations and also content differ fundamentally from the knowledge imparted by “more competent” partners. Children in symmetrical relationships often communicate in dialogue form, a spiral proposal and counter-proposal, in which they mutually refer to one another (ibid.). Children learn from each other in a special way and make a significant contribution to their own development. They experience self-affirmation: "There are children like me, they speak my language and play like me." (Wüstenberg, 2006)

2. Peer socialization in early childhood

Peer groups play an important role in socializing and learning new behavior patterns. Due to the increasing external care in early childhood, children are now more than ever challenged to fit into a group, to discover similarities, develop relationships and friendships as a result, but also to perceive differences and to cope with the confrontation of other perspectives and points of view: "The formation Social action can only arise through practice in a social context, that is, through living together and, above all, the low-threshold testing of social behavior at the peer level. ”(Kobelt Neuhaus, 2010, p. 45) As already described in the definition of“ socialization ” , the child's achievement lies in its individual development in dealing with this social (and external) environment, in this case the respective group of children (of the same age). It is obvious that the behavior patterns, values, skills and motives that arise in this context are influenced by this group. In conclusion, it becomes clear that the socialization development of children among their peers can only be observed "in action", means an observation of their common activity and interaction and thus their common play. Strätz also refers to this by stating “that the contacts of small children are almost exclusively developed through joint activities and games. Much seems tangible and less top-heavy. ”(Strätz, 1992, p. 72) Play is the main medium of children's group interactions and without play there are no groups that children can form independently (Brandes, 2010, p. 88ff.).

In order to chronologically demonstrate the complexity and abundance of both "game development" and the necessary "social and interaction development", and especially their interrelationship, in early childhood, the following is an overview of the forms of interaction, play and communication given in this age group.

2.1. Socialization among peers in the "infant and toddler" age group

Kobelt-Neuhaus is one of the generally typical forms of communication among small children: turning, approaching, smiling, looking and facial expressions, as well as movement, closeness, distance, touch and also the exchange of sounds and imitation (Kobelt Neuhaus, 2010, p. 49) . It becomes clear that communicative as well as motor and tactile forms of contact are used for the purpose of interaction. Furthermore, Kobelt-Neuhaus emphasizes that children seek contact with other babies in the first six months of their life, touch them and wait for a reaction (ibid.). Hay also affirms that children of this age fine-tune their initiatives to establish contact with one another (Hay, 1983, p. 561). For this purpose, children use imitation to communicate, in doing so they mostly imitate maternal and paternal facial expressions, and are curious about their peers even in the so-called “foreign age” (Kobelt Neuhaus, 2010, p. 47). Even at this age they are able to interact sequentially and reciprocally (Reinders, 2015) and to develop a “shared understanding” of mutual activities on a pre-linguistic level (Brandes, 2010, p. 17). This fearlessness is also evident in the second half of the first year of life, when the children mainly use objects to make contact with other children (ibid.). This object centering gradually decreases again up to the age of about three years (Reinders, 2015, p. 399).

It should also be noted that at this age, the possibilities for understanding and playing together expand enormously (Wüstenberg & Schneider, 2010, p. 70). While some developmental psychologists clearly point out that children of this age are interested in one another, but are not able to play with one another beyond the parallel game because they lack the necessary coordination of mutual activities (Keller & Lohaus, 2005, p. 187), others emphasize the unique, highly developed strategy of this form of play, for which there is no lack of coordination of activities, i.e. insufficient group maturity, but the advantage of gradually getting to know the situation. For example, the child gains information about objects by observing the behavior of other children (Kobelt Neuhaus, 2010, p. 50).Researchers who have devoted themselves to the quality development of relationships among peers support these development-promoting aspects of the "parallel game", as their results show that "playing alongside one another" often leads to imitation and usually leads to a common game Game developed in which the children alternately introduce new variants and execute them together (Wüstenberg, 1992, p. 249ff.). This reflects the parallel game as a starting point for further development, at which the children can step independently in cooperation, but can also return to the original, "sole" game. This peer-to-peer cooperation also makes it possible to negotiate games, thus having the "same" influence and proves that the competence and power relationship between the children involved in this game is roughly balanced and that they mutually relate to one another (Kobelt Neuhaus, 2010, p. 51 ). The attitude of one child determines the reaction of the other; this process makes it possible to bring in one's own wishes and ideas and to represent them, to decipher the language of the other, to recognize one's point of view and to compare it with one's own (ibid.).

At the beginning of the second year of life, Kobelt Neuhaus lists the development and occurrence of the "symbol game", which in their opinion primarily reflects episodes and roles from the family or from the child's immediate environment and which develops in stages (Kobelt Neuhaus, 2010, p. 54). The initially “simple” “pretend games” appear at the age of around 12 to 14 months and can be recognized by the fact that the child is misappropriating an object (the building block is used as a telephone) or a reference person in their behavior or the Facial expressions and gestures mimicking (ibid., 54). Half a year later, the children are able to create their first imaginary games (two children pour each other something and empty their glasses) and they notice that there are “similar others” but also “dissimilar” among the other children and one's own "guaranteed worldview" initially seems threatened when being with people of the same age (ibid., 51). This aspect also plays a major role in the linguistically and content-wise highly developed "role play", which is increasingly observed in two- and three-year-old children, as they use behavioral patterns in this form of play, also known as the "mother-father-child game" which they have already experienced and tried out in their first relationships with their main reference persons (ibid., 52ff.). In the first two years of life, the fantasy game is therefore still very specific, but the extent of abstraction and orientation towards facts or objects that are remembered increases with advancing age (Reinders, 2015, p. 399). This form of interaction with people of the same age is dealt with in more detail in the next chapter, in the “child” age group, as it unfolds fully here.

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