How Early Parent-Child Relationships Predict Social Competence

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date

April 2016

Faculty Sponsor

Jennifer Weaver


Children with high social competence, or emotional intelligence, are able to work cooperatively with others, empathize and understand the emotions of others, and are better adjusted to engage in educational and social demands. The National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) recruited families with newborn infants from 10 different states across the United States. A total of 1,364 families were enrolled in the study, and the families were representative of the sites from which they were recruited. This particular study examined parent-child interactions during early childhood, then teachers and parents rated children’s social skills in third grade to assess whether early parent-child relationships predicted later social competence (n=1,029). Parenting variables included mother and father sensitivity and parenting beliefs during early childhood. Parenting belief variables measured progressive beliefs or “child-centered” beliefs and traditional beliefs or “adult centered” beliefs during early childhood. Primary caregivers and teachers rated children’s social competence in third grade with the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS). Parental sensitivity and progressive beliefs were positively related to high social competence. Children whose parents were sensitive and responsive were more likely to have high social competence, or emotional intelligence. Therefore, a child’s early experiences with primary caregivers impacts their social development and future quality of interpersonal relationships with peers. This study contributes to the support of child-rearing practices that are child-centered, sensitive and progressive.

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