The Significance of Sibling and Peer interaction on Children

Within the field of child psychology much emphasis has been placed on the relationship and interactions of mother and child (Harris, 1998; Pinker, 2002). This essay intends to highlight the significance of another kind of interaction, that of the child and his/her siblings and peers, with the view to show how this type of interaction can have an impact on subsequent development. In the process, the essay will evaluate the research carried out and the evidence gained within this area by way of critical analysis.

As an added aid the essay will take examples from the died material: Media Kit Part 1, Video Band 2: Zero to Hero as supplied by Open university (2006). The type of interaction mainly focused upon here is play; as this is the catalysis by which young children, from toddler-hood onwards, engage with other children. Littleton and Mill (2005) recognize this type of interaction as ‘important sites for development’ where new skills can be acquired and tested out in ways that could not with adults.

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To help better define this type of relationship between sibling and peers it is perhaps best to distinguish them from the other main type of relationship that children find homeless in. Schaffer, (1996) uses the term vertical relationship to describe a type of relationship that is characterized by an inequality of social power and knowledge level between adult and child. It is marked also by a complementarily of roles whereby the child may ask for help and a parent or caregiver may offer it.

This is in contrast to the horizontal relationship that is marked more so for its reciprocity and equality of social power and knowledge. A good example being between two children of similar age. This peer relationship is similar in nature to hat of sibling relationships however as Schaffer (1996) notes, in this case the sibling relationship has the unique quality of being able to share both characteristics of, on the one hand reciprocity, whereby siblings can co-operate successfully in play situations and on the other, a marked age difference can see the older sibling as part time teacher and guide.

This idea would have had its beginnings in the early social constructivism perspective. Bigotry (1986) purported the belief that interaction and collaboration with peers equal and more capable, promotes learning and creates what he called a Zone of Proximal Development, where children of different abilities learn from each other. One of the methods they do this is by what Schaffer (2003) describes as ‘scaffolding whereby support is offered for learning however the task is not simplified.

The ability to play with others has also been described as a ‘skilled international accomplishment’ because of the complex skills involved, such as sensitivity to the needs of others, negotiation and conflict management skills (Littleton and Mill, 2005). But to play with people on must have the ability to Join in with others. In the video Zero to Hero supplied by Open University (2006), Professor Robert Winston lists certain factors that affect a child’s ability to Join in with others including premature birth, shyness and laughter.

Smith et al. , (1999) sees laughter as an important social signal for children within play fighting both for the child to use and for the child to interpret others meaning of it. Smith et al. , (1999) also cite the ability to regulate emotion, turn-taking skills and the ability to understand another person’s point of view as important social skills, not Just added for successful social interaction but are actively developed and practiced in play situations.

Open University (2006) illustrates these points by showing the use of classic experiments such as a version of the ‘marshmallow experiment (Muscle, 1974) where a child is sat in front of a marshmallow and told that he/she can have twice the amount if they can wait a specified time. Its been suggested from results that children able to wait or ‘delay gratification’ are better able to control emotions and is a better indication of academic and social success in their teens than IQ scores.

Also being able to hold back like this does increase a child’s popularity In another example children of about three years are shown how to play Which hand is the coin in game’ where a person places a coin in one hand in full view of the child sitting opposite. The hand is then placed behind the back and both hands are re- presented closed for the child to guess which hand the coin is now in. Open University (2006) suggests that most children at this age cannot play this game from the alternative position as they believe that the other person already knows which hand the coin is in.

This idea could be seen to come from the Paginating concept of ‘egocentrics’ whereby the child’s dominance of their own perceptions leaves them unable to see things from another’s perspective. Pigged elucidated this aspect through his Three Mountains Task (Pigged and Inhaler, 1972) Counter to this however, Open University (2006) go on to show the child named ‘Rubin’ as not only able to play the game, but also able to predict What other children will do’. They imply the reason for this as a result of his home life dynamic.

Here, Rubin lives with his two brothers and all have different fathers suggesting a lot of interaction with different types of people but mainly that play with his siblings is significant. This emphasis on sibling interaction as a cause for Robin’s advancement, when held up against Piglet’s stage theory of intellectual development (in Dates, Cheesy and Wood, 2005), suggests that early and sustained interaction with siblings can contribute to a change in normal developmental cognitive structures.

This assumption is arrived at through the underlying nature of any stage theory where, by definition imply distinct boundaries between stages where independent processes take place (Amounts, 2009). Piglet’s theory places Robin’s changes as occurring by the end of his second, Pre-operational stage or at the beginning of his Concrete operational stage where the child is moving away from egocentric thinking. The age put on this stage of development is around six years, notably different from Robin’s three.

In another study by Dunn (1988), children from a very young age were shown to have the ability co-operate with each other and engage in complex types of play such as fantasy play whereby other identities were taken on requiring different forms of language (Corsair, 1986). Dunn (1988) even showed that children as young as eight months were able to share and recognize the mood of a sibling and by fourteen months had the ability to co-operate in another’s goals. However, the idea that examples can be found that find children performing better then Pigged would have originally predicted is not something new.

Donaldson Hiding the Policeman experiment is a case in point (Donaldson and Hughes, 1978), as are other examples (Miscarriage and Donaldson, 1974; Light et al. , 1979). The intent of this essay at this point however, is not to argue the individual merits of Paginating theory, for even Donaldson criticisms can be regarded as an enhancement of the theory rather than a dismissing out of hand. It can be suggested that her argument is based on children’s reasoning being regarded as more sophisticated then first proposed, with the emphasis now to be placed within the social context for which a situation occurred, I. . That things make ‘human sense’ to the child (Dates et al. , 2005). Instead the point here is to show that by using this influential developmental approach that the significance of peer and sibling interaction can be more clearly en. For it should also be noted that Pigged himself valued this cognitive development aspect of peer relationships, referring to it as socio-cognitive conflict where he argued that these interactions exposed the child to conflicting views from people who were of equal status to themselves thus motivating a rethink of their own understandings.

The power imbalance of adult’s interactions lends to this (Dates et In light of what has been said so far it could be argued that peer and sibling relationships contribute to advancement in cognitive and social skills. However, as Cantor et al. (1999) warns that social competence should not be conceived as a static set of abilities and that other factors in the child’s environment should also be considered to contribute too child’s development.

And so taking again our real life example ‘Rubin’, one would expect that his advanced developmental and social skills would lead too socially more successful life. To the contrary Rubin was reported by almost half his class (and later by assessment) as displaying somewhat anti-social behaviors. One reason Open University (2006) gives for this is a lack of concentration, which, it is hoped, will be remedied with fish oil supplements. The second reason, it is suggested is partly due to instability within the home environment.

Robin’s mother is pregnant and this is causing tensions with her partner. The point to be drawn from this however, is that although play and interaction with siblings and peers is important for a child’s development it should not be taken as a prescription for normal or ‘healthy patterns’ of development (Schaffer, 1996) at least by western industrialized standards. Instead a more holistic approach should be adopted with regard to the multi-dimensional dynamic of a person’s developmental thaw from birth to maturity.

Perhaps a good model to consider would be Sombreros (1987) Transactional model of development. There are limitations however of psychologists accounts in this area. One such being the lack of research and evidence into the ever growing use of new technologies by young people when engaging in social activity. Maybe (2003) notes that the prevalence of mobile phone use has created an environment that allows for young people to have twenty-four hour contact with each other without parental interference thus, providing a greater level of privacy and independence.

However, it would also be noted that Dunn (2004) has valued this privacy aspect of friendship in early interactions as it aids young people in ciphering out the ‘intricate balance of power and status between people’ as well as giving them experience in relationships different from that which they share with their parents. This could also be construed as the beginnings of independence. Another limitation is that the majority of the research noted here has been carried out in westernizes societies.

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