Young Children’s Peer Relations and Social Competence
Cultural roots, philosophical perspectives, history, and scientifi c theories have encouraged members of today’s societies to embrace the premise that early experience plays a critical role in human development (see Kessen, 1979; Sears, 1975). In research communities, this premise has spurred an interest in early relationships and their role in children’s growth and development. Although parent-child relationships have long been a focal point for theory and research on early socialization (see Ladd & Pettit, 2002), it has become increasingly clear that age mates, or peers, also contribute to children’s development (e.g., see Berndt & Ladd, 1989; Harris, 1995; Ladd, 1999). In fact, some have hypothesized (Bowlby, 1973; Freud & Dann, 1951; Rutter, 1979) that early childhood may be a sensitive period for social development, and that certain types of peer experiences contribute uniquely to children’s development during this period.