The Benefits of Buddies: Strategically Pairing Preschoolers with Other-Gender Classmates Promotes Positive Peer Interactions

Laura D. Hanish, Sonya Xinyue Xiao, Laura Means Malouf, Carol Martin, Priscilla Goble, Richard A. Fabes, Dawn DeLay, Crystal Bryce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Research Findings: We tested whether a universal classroom peer pairing intervention–Buddy Up–would strengthen dyadic peer interactions among preschoolers (N = 140; M age = 56.49 months; 53.6% boys; 77.9% Latinx). The Buddy Up intervention was informed by Intergroup Contact Theory, which specifies the benefits of exposure to heterogeneous others. Teachers buddied children with other-gender peers. We hypothesized positive intervention effects on the quality of dyadic interactions overall and for other-gender interactions specifically. We also considered whether the effects would generalize (secondary transfer effects) to interactions with other-language peers (English and Spanish). Using a quasi-experimental design, we found intervention effects on improved peer interactions overall and for other-gender dyads. There was little evidence of improved interactions for other-language dyads. Same-gender dyads (notably girl-girl dyads) and same-language dyads (notably English-speaking dyads) also responded positively to the intervention. The use of dyadic peer interaction data during preschool represents an innovative feature of this study. Practice or Policy: Buddy Up facilitated positive peer interactions. This is a key building block through which social skills are built and friendships can grow. The findings suggest that early childhood teachers can successfully support students in developing relationships with peers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEarly education and development
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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