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Durham e-Theses
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Two ethological studies of social behaviour in day nurseries

Brookes, Sasha M. (1983) Two ethological studies of social behaviour in day nurseries. Masters thesis, Durham University.



The development of ethological and observational methods of studying children's social behaviour is discussed, characteristics of the methods are outlined, and their theoretical basis is considered. Recent literature dealing with the social development of pre-school children is reviewed, with particular reference to social interactions with adults and peers, the development and function of smiling, and the effect of gender on social behaviour. The first study reported, compared the frequencies of some social behaviours observed in 2-year-old girls and boys with frequencies of the same behaviours observed in 4-year olds cared for at the same local authority day nursery. Developmental changes in these behaviours, inferred from comparison of the two age groups, are discussed. The study showed that social interactions with peers were significantly more frequent in 4 year olds, as has often been found; interactions with adult caregivers, however, did not decrease in frequency in the older group. It is argued that relationships with caregivers in the nursery are especially important for these deprived children. It was observed that children more often participated in smile exchanges with adults, and it is suggested that caregivers regard smiling as an important social skill, and taught it to the children by example. All the children had more frequent social interchanges with caregivers than peers. The older children however had significantly more successful social interchanges with peers than the younger ones. A significant degree of correlation was found between the frequency with which a child was seen to smile, and the frequency of its social interactions in general. A further pilot study compared the social interactions between 2 groups of 4 year olds and their mothers, during a 20 minute play period. The first group were cared for in a day nursery; the second group at home. Significantly less spatial proximity, and significantly more verbal exchange, between mothers and children, was observed in the day care group. It is suggested that, as a result of social experience with other adults and peers in the nursery, the day care group may have developed more mature relationships with their mothers. Observation of the 2 groups under different conditions, however, and problems of inference from attachment theory, make the results of the pilot study ambiguous.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1983
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 May 2013 15:46

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