Effects of peer relationships and child behaviors on preschoolers' language competencies
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The purpose of this study was to investigate preschoolers' peer relationships, social behaviors, and language competencies, and to further explore the predictors of language discourse ability scores. Another purpose of this study was to examine differences in preschoolers' language competencies and child behaviors when compared by peer relationship classifications, child genders, ethnicities, home languages, and parental education levels. Interactionism, Social Behaviorism, and Cognitivism were integrated and applied as a theoretical framework in this study. One hundred and five preschoolers, their parents, and fourteen classroom teachers were recruited for this study from seven classrooms in one Head Start Center situated in Dallas, Texas. Peer relationships were assessed individually using Sociometric techniques. Language competencies were assessed independently using the Preschool Language Assessment Instrument, 2nd Edition [PLAI-2] (Blank, Rose, & Berlin, 2003), including Expressive and Receptive Subscales, and Language Discourse Ability. The social behaviors were determined by Teachers' Ratings of the Child Behavior Scale (Ladd, 2010). The results indicated that statistically significant differences were found among peer relationship classifications, genders, and home languages in preschoolers' language competencies. In addition, other statistically significant differences on the effects of social behaviors were found when comparing by the grouping variables of peer relationship classifications, child genders, ethnicities, regardless of parental education levels and their home languages. Certain types of peer relationship classifications, home languages, and Anxious-Fearful (AF) social behaviors were accountable for the predictors of preschoolers' language competence. Children identified as Popular in their peer relationship classifications had higher Discourse Ability Scores when compared to those of Neglected preschoolers. Finally, the findings of this study are important for teachers, parents, and teacher educators to better understand that peer relationships in classrooms may play an essential role in preschoolers' language competencies. These results point to the importance of considering peer relationships and social behaviors when examining preschoolers' language competencies.