The successful navigation of peer relationships in childhood is an important precursor to later socioemotional adaptation, and problematic peer relationships predict difficulties in academic, psychiatric, social, and behavioral domains. Early experiences with inconsistent caregiving, such as experienced by children raised in psychosocially depriving orphanages, have been associated with social difficulties in past research. However, past studies have been limited by a focus on older children, a reliance on parents as informants, a narrow conceptualization of peer functioning, and a lack of appropriate comparison groups. The present study investigated peer relationship functioning among kindergarten-aged PI children, compared with children adopted from foster care and children born and raised in the US, using a prospective longitudinal design. Teachers, parents, and trained observers provided ratings of peer relations. Possible mechanisms (poor inhibitory control, disinhibited social engagement; DSE) and risk/protective factors (parenting quality, gender) were also examined. Results indicated that PI children exhibited poorer peer functioning compared with NA children, according to teachers and observers but not parents. Inhibitory control abilities partially mediated the relationship between PI status and teacher-rated peer functioning, but DSE behaviors did not. Contrary to expectations, higher parenting quality did not appear to protect PI children from risk for poor inhibitory control or DSE. There was minimal evidence for gender moderation. Implications and future directions are discussed.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2016. Major: Child Psychology. Advisor: Megan Gunnar. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 105 pages.
Early Deprivation and Peer Relationships: The Roles of Inhibitory Control, Disinhibited Social Engagement, and Parenting Quality.
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