Author

Eryn D. Hamel

Date of Award:

1999

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Department name when degree awarded

Family and Human Development

Advisor/Chair:

Shelley L. Knudsen Lindauer

Abstract

This study explored the links between maternal beliefs about the importance of children's social skills, modes of obtaining social skills, management strategies, and children's social competence. Subjects were 67 mothers whose 3- and 4-year-old children attended one of five preschools in Cache Valley, Utah. Mothers completed questionnaires assessing their beliefs about the importance of social skills, their beliefs about how children acquire social skills, and the ways they are involved in their children 's peer relationships. Demographic measures were also completed by the mothers. Classroom teachers completed the Child Behavior Scale on every child in their class, regardless of maternal participation, in order to measure the child's social skills with peers.

The results showed that mothers who returned the questionnaires were significantly more likely to have children with lower social competence. Mothers believed that social skills were important for preschool children and rated resolving conflicts, making friends, and sharing as more important than sticking-up for oneself or being a leader. Mothers were slightly more likely to believe that social skills were acquired as a result of innate characteristics. However, they were also more likely to choose an experience explanation for not being considerate of others ' feelings and choose an innate explanation for children who were considerate of other children's feelings. When ranking modes of acquisition, mothers who chose an experience or teaching explanation were less likely to believe that social skills were influenced by innate characteristics of the child. Mothers who believed that children gain social skills through experience were also more likely to have children with lower social competence.

When testing the hypotheses, links between maternal beliefs about the importance of social skills, maternal management strategies, and children 's social competence were not found. No differences were found between maternal beliefs or management strategies of mothers of 3-year-olds and mothers of 4-year-olds. There were also no statistically significant differences in mothers' beliefs or management strategies based upon children's gender. Children's age and gender were not found to be related to children's social competence.

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