Running head: relationships between prosocial and problem behaviors

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The Relationships among Sharing Behaviors, Social Skills, and Problem Behaviors

in Preschool Children

Taylor P. Bulman

University at Albany


Over the past few decades, the field of developmental psychopathology has become increasingly interested in children’s development during preschool, a time of immense cognitive and social growth (Parker et al., 2006). Past research indicates that prosocial behaviors exhibited during childhood can predict later adaptive functioning (Gresham et al., 2010). The goal of the present study was to explore the relationships among sharing behaviors, social skills, and problem behaviors in preschool children. Predominantly lower-income preschool children (N = 57, Male = 28) were recruited for participation. Teachers of the participants completed the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS). A modified version of a coding system developed by Barton and Ascione (1979) was used to code children's sharing behaviors displayed during small-group play time. Analyses indicated a significant negative correlation between social skills and problem behaviors. Taken together, the results of this study have implications for the importance of research on prosocial behaviors and problem behaviors as they can substantially influence children throughout their lifespan.

The Relationships among Sharing Behaviors, Social Skills, and Problem Behaviors

in Preschool Children

Developmental psychopathology is a fast-growing, scientific discipline within the field of psychology that came about during the 1970s (Cicchetti, 1995). The focus of developmental psychopathology revolves around the interaction between psychological, biological, and social-contextual features of normal and abnormal development within the life span (Cicchetti, 1995). One of the main goals of developmental psychopathology is to “bridge fields of study, span the life cycle, and aid in the discovery of important new truths about the processes underlying adaptation and maladaptation, as well as the best means of preventing or ameliorating psychopathology (Cicchetti, 1995, p. 2).” The perspective of developmental psychopathology is unique because it focuses on normal and abnormal, adaptive and maladaptive, developmental processes (Cicchetti & Toth, 2009).

The development of a person across their life span can be assessed through looking at the risk and protective factors and particular mechanisms operating outside and inside the individual with pertinence to a person’s environment (Cicchetti, 1995). Process-level models of normal and abnormal psychology are a main focus when it comes to developmental psychopathology. Process-level models “acknowledge that multiple pathways exist to the same outcomes and that the effects of one component’s value may vary in different systems, and an intensification of interest in biological and genetic factors, as well as in social and contextual factors related to the development of maladaptation and psychopathology” (Cicchetti, 1995, p. 3).

One of the essential focuses of developmental psychopathology is the boundary between normal and abnormal development (Cicchetti, 1995). In order to discern what is abnormal, normal development must first arise and be quantified. This viewpoint indicates how the examination of risk and pathology can enhance our understanding of normal development but also knowledge from the study of normal development can help in the study of mental disorders (Cicchetti, 1984b, 1990; Sroufe, 1990 as cited by Cicchetti, 1995).

Two processes of psychopathology are equifinality and multifinality. It is known that more than one pathway can lead to a disorder, which is termed equifinality (Cicchetti & Toth, 2009). For example, Sroufe (1989) found that multiple causal pathways led to attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Most of the pathways included were biological but some led to ADHD through insensitive caregiving. (Cicchetti & Toth, 2009). On the other hand, multifinality refers to the observation that the same pathways may lead to very unique outcomes (Cicchetti & Toth, 2009). An example would be the different developmental outcomes of children with insecure attachment relationships with a primary caregiver (Greenburg, Speltz, & DeKlyen, 1993, as cited by Cicchetti & Toth, 2009). Knowing that there are multiple pathways that lead to the same developmental outcomes and that there are multiple developmental outcomes from the same pathways, emphasizes the importance of studying the processes involved in the development of psychopathology.

The perspective of developmental psychopathology is applicable to the life span of an individual. The goal of developmental psychopathology is not only to search for the indicators or predictors of later disturbance, but also to figure out the interactive processes that contribute to the emergence of disturbed behaviors (Cicchetti, 1995). As Sroufe (1990) remarked, even before children develop psychopathology, there are different risk factors leading to the emergence of a mental disorder (Cicchetti, 1995). Therefore, it is important to look at developmental pathways in order to foresee possible future psychopathology. With this perspective in mind, the relationships among prosocial behavior, social skills and problem behaviors will be examined in this study. A brief introduction to each follows. Collectively, they serve to motivate the present study.

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