others' emotional states and intentions (see the discussion of theory of mind in the previous chapter) suggests that interventions that help children make constructive attributions about others' behavior may also be beneficial in the early years. In addition to efforts focused on the reduction of conduct disorders, parallel efforts are needed to create early childhood environments that foster caring, emotionally responsive interactions among all children (see Asher et al., 2000).


Establishing relationships with other children is a central task of the early childhood years. The success with which young children accomplish this objective can affect whether they will walk pathways to competence or deviance as they move into the middle childhood and adolescent years. Learning to play nicely, make friends, and sustain friendships are not easy tasks, and children who do them well tend to have well-structured experiences with peer interactions starting in toddlerhood and preschool, and, in particular, opportunities to play with familiar and compatible peers. They are also more likely to have secure relationships with their parents who, in turn, believe they have an instrumental role to play in fostering their children 's social relationships, deliberately creating opportunities for peer interactions, encouraging keen observational skills, and coaching their young children in constructive attitudes and skills. Temperament also plays a role. For example, shy children, compared with those who are rambunctious and highly active, tend to have different patterns of relationships with other children.

As American culture becomes ever more diverse, a higher priority needs to be granted to research on cultural issues in peer acceptance, rejection, and friendship and their effects on the social development of young children who are increasingly experiencing culturally diverse groups of peers in their child care and early education settings. Finally, it is vitally important to recognize that children with developmental disabilities face major hurdles with peer relations. They tend to be excluded from peer activities by typically developing children and to lack friends. Moreover, their more limited peer networks and often stressed parents can contribute unwittingly to their poor peer relations. These children warrant much greater attention in both research and intervention in the area of peer relationships.

Peer rejection is a risk factor for an array of subsequent problems ranging from conduct disorders to depression. Beginning in the preschool years, the social reasoning of rejected children, their lack of skill in social interactions, and their difficulty with controlling emotional outbursts set them apart from other children. Yet there is a serious dilemma. On one hand, the fact that early signs of serious adolescent and adult behavioral

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