Assessing and Fostering the Social Competence of Young Children

Bernard Cesarone
Childhood Education

Sep 30, 2006 20:00 EDT

Assessing and Fostering the Social Competence of Young Children

This column presents and summarizes recent resources that discuss and offer suggestions concerning assessing and fostering young children's social competence.

Books and Paper Presentations

CHILDREN'S PEER RELATIONS AND SOCIAL COMPETENCE: A Century of Progress. Gary W. Ladd. 2005. 436 pp. (Available from: Yale University Press, P.O. Box 209040, New Haven, CT 06520; 203-432-0960; http://yalepress.yale. edu/yupbooks/home.asp.) This text reviews research throughout the 20th century on child and adolescent development, and discusses how children's peer relationships affect their health and achievement. The author explains the ways in which the insights gleaned from this research can be used to promote children's development.

AEPS TEST [FOR] BIRTH TO THREE YEARS AND THREE TO SIX YEARS. Assessment, Evaluation, and Programming System for Infants and Children, 2nd Edition. Diane Bricker, Betty Capt, & Kristie Pretti-Frontczak. 2002. 282 pp. (Available from: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., P.O. Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285; 800-638-3775; www. htm.) This volume of the Assessment, Evaluation, and Programming System (AEPS) Test and its associated curriculum begins with an overview of the test and a discussion of the purpose and value of the assessment of young children. Chapter 3 describes the use of the test with children with various disabilities and children who are typically developing but at risk. Chapter 4 describes a set of data collection strategies. Other sections contain the test items for infants and toddlers and for children ages 3 to 6 years. The test items are divided into six developmental areas: 1) fine motor, 2) gross motor, 3) adaptive, 4) cognitive, 5) social communication, and 6) social. An appendix provides assessment activities for children from birth through age 6.

LINKING UP! Using Music, Movement, and Language Arts To Promote Caring, Cooperation, and Communication. Pre-K Through Grade 3. Bilingual/Spanish. Sarah Pirtle. 1998. 317pp. (Availablefrom Educators for Social Responsibility, 23 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138; 800-370-2515; This guide provides K-3 teachers with information to help foster positive social skills. The guide includes a recording with 46 easyto-learn songs (20 of them are in both English and Spanish) to use with young children. The songs address such skills as cooperating, expressing feelings, communicating needs, responding appropriately to others, transforming conflicts by problem solving, noticing and affirming diversity, promoting fairness, and seeking fulfillment from friendship. Classroom activities, implementation plans, and innovative extensions outline how to use music to effectively help children learn important social skills.

FOSTERING CHILDREN'S SOCIAL COMPETENCE: The Teacher's Role. Lilian G. Katz & Diane E. McClellan. 1997. 128pp. (Available from: National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1313 L Street, NW, Ste. 500, Washington, DC 20005; 800-424-2460; www.naeyc. org.) This book presents options for early childhood educators to consider as they make decisions concerning how best to foster the development of children's social competence. The book maintains that social competence is most likely to be acquired in an atmosphere of acceptance, respect, and faith in the child's capacity to grow. Included in the text are examples of teachers' experiences to demonstrate approaches that may not foster children's social development, as well as alternative ways to address these situations. The chapters discuss components of social competence, factors related to fostering social growth in young children, general principles of practice to use in helping children achieve social competence, strategies for helping children overcome social difficulties, and ways to strengthen specific components of social competence.

SKILLSTREAMING THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CHILD: New Strategies and Perspectives for Teaching Prosocial Skills. Revised Edition. Ellen McGinnis & Arnold P Goldstein. 1997. 339pp. (Available from: Research Press, 2612 N. Mattis Ave., Champaign, IL; 800-519-2707; This set of materials for training elementary school children in social skills includes a book that explains the Skillstreaming program, a student manual, a collection of program forms, and a box of skill cards for use with students. Various chapters present strategies for using Skill-streaming to develop safe school environments, discuss program implementation, list age-appropriate skills, and describe effective motivation-enhancing procedures. Appendices include an annotated bibliography, checklists, charts, and descriptions of supplementary materials. Additional materials include worksheets, checklists, forms, and skill cards.

Journal Articles

SOCIAL SKILLS AND YOUNG CHILDREN. Mary Renck Jalongo. Scholastic Early Childhood Today, Vol. 20, No. 7 (May 2006): 8-9. This article offers reasons for emphasizing young children's development of social competence. The article also outlines methods for assessing social competence and ways to support its development.

SOCIAL INFORMATION-PROCESSING SKILLS TRAINING TO PROMOTE SOCIAL COMPETENCE AND PREVENT AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR IN THE THIRD GRADE. Mark W. Fraser, MaedaJ. Galinsky, Paul R. Smokowski, Steven H. Day, Mary A. Terzian, Roderick A. Rose, & Shenyang Guo. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol., 73, No. 6 (December 2005): 1045-1055. A study was designed to reduce aggressive behavior and promote social competence in children by strengthening their skills in regulating emotion and processing social information. Three cohorts of 3rd-graders received the Making Choices: Social Problem Solving Skills for Children (MC) program. These students showed more social competence, less social aggression, and more information-processing skills than did comparison children.

A CONTEXTUAL APPROACH TO THE ASSESSMENT OF SOCIAL SKILLS: Identifying Meaningful Behaviors for Social Competence. Emily D. Warnes, Susan M. Sheridan, & Jenenne Geske. Psychology in the Schools, Vol. 42, No. 2 (February 2005): 173-187. Information was obtained from 2nd- and 5th-graders and their parents and teachers on behaviors that they considered important for getting along with peers. Information was obtained from the students by means of interviews, and from parents and teachers by means of written surveys. Results indicated much overlap in the types of behaviors reported by participants; and some similarities and differences among the 2nd- and 5th-graders' reports. The article examines the findings' implications for the assessment of children's social skills.

BUILDING PRESCHOOL CHILDREN'S EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE: A Parenting Program. Sophie S. Havighurst, Ann Harley, & Margot Prior. Early Education and Development, Vol. 15, No. 4 (October 2004): 423-447. This article outlines a parenting program and describes a study of the program. The program is based on the belief that parents' modeling and their reactions to, and coaching of, children'semotions are associated with children's development of emotional competence. Assessments were conducted before and after the program was delivered to parents of 4- and 5-year-old preschoolers. Among other results, parents reported that they were less critical after the program than before of their children's emotional expressions, and the children exhibited less negativity and fewer difficult behaviors.

TEACHING SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE. Rita Coombs Richardson. Children & Schools, Vol. 22, No. 4 (October 2000): 246-251. Formal schooling generally does not include education in interpersonal skills, although social development is important to academic progress. This article describes the implementation of a social skills training program for elementary and middle school students called "Connecting With Others: Lessons for Teaching Social and Emotional Competence."

THE CHILD BEHAVIOR SCALE: A Teacher-Report Measure of Young Children's Aggressive, Withdrawn, and Prosocial Behaviors. Gary W. Ladd & Susan Muth Profilet. Developmental Psychology, Vol. 32, No. 6 (November 1996): 1008-1024. A study evaluated the reliability and validity of the Child Behavior Scale (CBS), which is designed to assess behavioral indicators of risk and competence in young children. In the spring and fall, teachers used the CBS to rate their kindergarten children, and sociometric measures were administered to children. Results showed that scores for six CBS subscales were internally consistent, distinct, and stable over time.

Web Resources

Assessing Children's Social Competence. June 2005 faqs/socialcomp.htm

This "Frequently Asked Questions" page prepared by the Illinois Early Learning (IEL) Project discusses social competence and its importance during childhood, explains how children develop social competence, provides a checklist for assessing a child's social competence, and offers additional print and Web resources.

(Also in Spanish: La evaluacion de la competencia social de los ninos at faqs-sp/socialcomp-sp.htm)

Assessing Young Children's Social Competence. 2001

Diane E. McClellan & Lilian G. Katz eecearchive/digests/2001/mcclelOl. html

This digest introduces the Social Attributes Checklist, by means of which teachers, consulting with parents, can assess the development of children's social well-being.

(Also in Spanish: Evaluandolacompetencia social en los ninos at http:// /mcclel01s.html)

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (caseD at the University of Illinois-Chicago

Among other goals, caseL seeks to advance the science of social and emotional learning (SEL) and to expand coordinated, evidence-based SEL practice.

Social-Emotional Learning in Early Childhood: What We Know and Where To Go From Here. 2004

This document from caseL outlines a developmental perspective on social-emotional learning and offers suggestions about what adults can do to foster children's socialemotional development, including methods of teaching about behavior, modeling, reacting to children's behavior, and using language.

Social and Emotional Learning: A Framework for Promoting Mental Health and Reducing Risk Behaviors in Children and Youth. Reprint of an article from the Journal of School Health, May 2000 Safe%20and%20Sound/3B_SEL_ Framework.pdf

This article describes best practice in social and emotional learning (SEL). SEL competencies are divided into four groups: 1) awareness of self and others, 2) positive attitudes and values, 3) responsible decision making, and 4) social interaction skills. The article outlines the features of programs that foster SEL competencies.

Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL)

CSEFEL is a national center focused on strengthening the capacity of child care and Head Start programs to improve the social and emotional outcomes of young children.

What Are Children Trying To Tell Us?: Assessing the Function of Their Behavior. November 2003

L. Fox, M. Duda html

This document in the "What Works Briefs" series from CSEFEL outlines the Functional Behavior Assessment process for understanding the function of a specific problem behavior exhibited by a child.

(Also in Spanish:

Strengthening Social and Emotional Competence in Young Children: The Foundation for Early School Readiness and Success. Incredible Years Classroom Social Skills and Problem-Solving Curriculum. Reprint of an article from the journal Infants and Young Children, 2004 i ness-sccess-04.pd f

This article describes a program designed to teach social skills to young children.

The Early Childhood and Parenting (ECAP) Collaborative contributed this column. Further information on EC AP projects is available from ECAP, Children's Research Center, University of Illinois, 51 Gerty Drive, Champaign, 1L61820-7469; phone: 877-275-3227 or 217-333-1386; E-mail:;

Source: Childhood Education


Related Stories