Data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care were examined to determine how children's experiences in child care were related to peer competence at 24 and 36 months of age, after controlling for the effects of family and child characteristics. Peer competence was assessed using mother and caregiver ratings as well as observations of children with their peers in child care, and at 36 months from observations of dyadic play with a familiar peer. Consistent, albeit modest, relations were found between child-care experiences in the first 3 years of life and children's peer competencies. Positive, responsive caregiver behavior was the feature of child care most consistently associated with positive, skilled peer interaction in child care. Children with more experience in child-care settings with other children present were observed to be more positive and skilled in their peer play in child care, although their caregivers rated them as more negative with playmates. Children who spent more hours in child care were rated by their caregivers as more negative in peer play, but their observed peer play was not related to the quantity of care. Child-care experiences were not associated with peer competence as rated by mothers or as observed in dyadic play with a friend. Maternal sensitivity and children's cognitive and language competence predicted peer competence across all settings and informants, suggesting that family and child-care contexts may play different, but complementary roles in the development of early emerging individual differences in peer interaction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology