Young Children's cliques: a study on processes of peer acceptance and cliques aggregation
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A considerable amount of research has examined the link between children’s peer acceptance, which refers to the degree of likability within the peer group, social functioning and emotional wellbeing, at a same age and in a long term perspective, pointing out to the contribution of peer acceptance for mental wellbeing. Our study proposes a sociometric methodology that, differently from many studies focused on individual classifications of social status, moves to the analysis of affiliative social networks within the class group. This study describes how individual factors such as socio-emotional competence, temperament, and linguistic skills are related to positive reciprocated nominations (=RNs) and examines the cliques generated by reciprocal nominations according to similarities (socio-emotional competence, temperament and linguistic skills) among cliques’ members. Eighty-four preschool children (M age = 62.5 months) were recruited. The Sociometric Interview to assess RNs and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test - Revised (PPVT-R; Dunn & Dunn, 1981) to assess receptive language were administered; the Social competence and Behaviour Evaluation Short Form questionnaire (SCBE-30; LaFreniere & Dumas, 1996) and the Quit Temperament Scale (Axia, 2002) were filled in by the teachers. Results showed that children with higher RNs presented higher scores in social orientation, positive emotionality, motor activity, linguistic skills and social competence (trend), and exhibited lower anxietywithdrawal.The analysis of cliques revealed that children preferred playmates with similar features: social ompetence, anger-aggression (trend), social orientation, positive emotionality, inhibition to novelty, attention, motor activity (trend) and linguistic skills. These findings provide insights about processes of peer affiliation, highlighting the role of socio-emotional functioning and linguistic skills.