Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

School Psychology

Abstract

Early childhood represents a critical period for development of the social behaviors and language that make social competence possible. Demonstrating social competence and positive peer relationships before reaching kindergarten may enhance school functioning and early achievement once children enter the school setting (Costin & Jones, 1992; Gresham & Reschly, 1987; Ladd, 1990). Unfortunately, many children fail to naturally or adequately develop these important skills, heightening risk for future problems due to disability and factors such as poverty, abuse, and engagement with child welfare agencies (Guralnick & Groom, 1987; Fantuzzo et al., 1988; Mueller & Silverman, 1989; Campbell, 1990; Kopp, Baker, & Brown, 1992; Lieber, 1993; Webster-Stratton, 1997). This research is often cited as a justification for an increased focus on improving social competence as early as preschool (Gresham, 1981). The present study was an effort to synthesize published and unpublished research in order to determine whether social competence interventions are effective for young children with special needs. Results indicate that instructionally-based interventions are associated with small-to-moderate treatment effects. Diverse groups of young children have been the primary focus of this research, including those with emotional and behavioral problems and those at risk. Missing data and a failure to address generalization leave significant unanswered questions regarding the meaningful impact of such interventions on young children's quality of life.

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