Relationship with Peers

Children first begin to show some positive interest in other infants as early as 6 months of age. If you place two babies of that age on the floor facing each other, they will touch each other, pull each other’s hair, and reach for each other’s clothing. In 10-month-olds, these behaviours are even more evident.

By 14 to 18 months of age, two or more children can play together with toys, occasionally cooperating, but more often simply playing side by side with different toys, a pattern described as parallel play. By 3 or 4 years, children appear to prefer to play with peers rather than alone, and their play with one another is much more cooperative and coordinated, including various forms of group play. By age 3 or 4, more than half of children have at least one mutual friend.

There is every reason to believe that early play with a peer is highly important to learn and practice a host of social skills. Often, they have to learn to subdue their own desires in the interests of joint play, which requires some awareness of the other’s feelings and wishes as well as an ability to modulate one’s own emotions. Play with peers, especially play with friends, maybe a crucial ingredient in the individual’s psychosocial development.

Peers become even more important among school-aged children. Indeed, for children aged 7 through 10, playing with peers takes up virtually all their time when they are not in school, eating, or sleeping. Shared play interests form the major basis of peer relationships among school-aged children. Furthermore, children in this age range define playgroups in terms of common activities.


The sense of being male or female has effects on psychosocial development throughout life. It produces dissimilar worlds for members of each sex, even during infancy!

Infants’ behaviour is interpreted differently depending on gender. Male infants are considered to be more active and fussier than females. Also, it is well known that there are typical gender-related roles that one has to play in life depending on
whether one is a male or female. This can be seen in children’s play, where boys are encouraged to play more vigorous games while girls are expected to play more docile and soft games. Depending upon the role a male or female is expected
to take up in society, the play also is influenced by these factors.

Also, girls and boys between the ages of 6 and 12 actively avoid interacting with one another and show strong favouritism toward their own gender and negative stereotyping of the opposite gender. Why is this preference for same-gender playmates so very strong at this age? Eleanor Maccoby (1990), one of the leading researchers and theorists in this area, suggests two reasons.

  • Girls appear to be “put off” by the typical boy’s rough-and-tumble play style and by the strong emphasis on competition and dominance that is so much a part of boy-boy interactions.
  • Also, girls find it hard to influence boys.
  • Girls make polite suggestions to each other, a style of influence attempt that school-aged boys simply do not comply with very often.
  • Girls tend to withdraw into their own pairs or groups where their own “rules” of behaviour are familiar and effective. Indeed, boys’ preference for same-gender playmates is, even stronger than that of girls.

Furthermore, gender segregation is even more pronounced in friendships among school-aged children. School-aged children spend more time with their friends than do preschoolers, and they gradually develop a larger collection of reciprocal
friendships and pairs in which each child names the other as a friend or as a “best friend”.This number gradually rises through elementary school.

Also the qualities of the friendships girls and boys create differ. Boys’ relationships are extensive while that of girls are intensive. Boys’ friendship groups are larger and more accepting of newcomers than are girls’. Boyfriends play more outdoors and roam over a larger area in their play. Girlfriends are more likely to play in pairs or in smaller groups, and they spend more playtime indoors or near home or school.

Gender differences in actual interactions are also evident. Boys’ groups and boys’ friendships appear to be focused more on competition and dominance than are girls’ friendships (Maccoby, 1990). In fact, among school-aged boys, there are higher levels of competition between pairs of friends than between pairs of strangers, the opposite of what can be observed among girls. Friendships between girls also include more agreement, more compliance, and more self-disclosure than those between boys.

Sibling Relationships

Rivalry or jealousy is the key ingredient of sibling relationships. Certainly, the birth of a new brother or sister radically changes the life of the older sibling. The parents have less time for the older child, who may feel neglected and angry. Such feelings may lead both to more confrontations between the older child and the parents and to feelings of rivalry with the new one.

Young brothers and sisters hit each other, snatch toys, and threaten and insult each other. The older child in a pair of preschoolers is likely to be the leader and is therefore likely to show more of both aggressive and helpful behaviours.


Play in young children contributes to all domains of development. Through play, children stimulate the senses, learn how to use their muscles, coordinate sight with movement, gain mastery over their bodies, and acquire new skills. As they sort blocks of different shapes, count how many they can pile on each other, or announce that “my tower is bigger than yours,” they lay the foundation for mathematical concepts. Researchers categorise children’s play by its content and its social dimension.

Types of Play: There are three types of play, viz., (i) Make-believe or Pretend play (ii) Functional play (iii) Constructive play

Nitu at 3, arranged for the marriage of her doll. Nitin at 4, wore a kitchen towel and flew around as Batman. These children were engaged in ‘make believe’ play involving situations. They develop problem-solving and language skills and experience the joy of creativity. They make “tickets” for an imaginary train trip or use a doctor set to play doctor-patient. The make-believe play is one of four categories of play identified by Piaget and others as showing increasing levels of cognitive complexity (Piaget, 1951). In pretend play, children do the following:

  1. Try out roles
  2. Cope with uncomfortable emotions
  3. Gain understanding of other people’s viewpoints, and
  4. Construct an image of the social world.

Pretend play is also called fantasy play, dramatic play or imaginative play.

Functional play involves repetitive muscular movements such as rolling or bouncing a ball. As gross motor skills improve, preschoolers run, jump, skip, hop, throw, and aim.

Constructive play is one in which the child uses objects or materials to make something, such as a house of blocks or a crayon drawing. Four-year-olds in preschools may spend more than half their time in this kind of play, which becomes more elaborate by ages 5 and 6 years.

The Social Dimension of play

As children get older, their play tends to become more social than it is more interactive and cooperative. At first, children play alone, then alongside other children, and finally, together.

Children become more social during the preschool years in imaginative play, which shifts from solitary pretending to dramatic play involving other children. Young children follow unspoken rules in organising dramatic play, i.e. I’m the daddy; you’re the mommy. As imaginative play becomes increasingly collaborative, storylines become more complex and more innovative. The dramatic play offers rich opportunities to practice interpersonal and language skills and to explore social roles.

Pro Social Behaviour and Aggression

We will consider here two specific categories of behaviour, pro-social behaviour and aggression. Prosocial behaviour is defined as “intentional, voluntary behaviour intended to benefit another”. Variations in children’s levels of prosocial behaviour seem to be related to specific kinds of child-rearing practices. Children do support and share with one another, and they also tease, fight, criticise, and argue over objects and territory.

However, there is another side to this behaviour, which is aggression that has been studied in greater detail by researchers. Every child
shows some aggression, but the form and frequency of aggression are not the same throughout but tend to vary considerably from age to age. When a child is only 2 or 3 years of age, they may show their anger through temper tantrums, by throwing things down and destroying or breaking their toys.

Since this kind of aggression has a specific goal as for example making the mother give chocolate or purchase a toy from the market, this type of aggression is known as instrumental aggression. Once the goal is achieved, the aggression disappears only to return when another goal has to be achieved. This is where the caregivers and parents have to be extra cautious not to allow such aggression to become a pattern of behaviour that may be rather too difficult to control at later ages.


This is the pattern of arousal and emotionality that are labeled as consistent and enduring characteristics of an individual. Temperament refers to how children behave. Temperamental differences among infants appear from the time of birth.
Temperament shows stability from infancy through adolescence.

Research shows three profiles of temperament, viz., (i) easy babies (ii) difficult babies and (iii) slow to warm up babies.

Easy babies have a positive disposition, their body functions operate regularly and they are adaptable, while difficult babies have negative moods and are slow to adapt to new situations.

The third category that is the slow to warm up babies are inactive, showing relatively calm reactions to their environment. Their moods are generally negative, and they withdraw from new situations, adapting slowly.

No temperament is inherently good or bad and in most cases there is a combination of all these temperaments though one is more dominant than others. How well a person adjusts to the environment depends on the degree of match between
children’s temperament and the nature and demands of the environment in which they are being raised.

Child Rearing Practices

Child rearing practices are parenting practices which are the mechanisms through which parents directly help their children attain socialisation goals. A child’s mind is considered to be fresh and tender so that it can be moulded to suit the society and the family.

Child rearing is a process. It involves planning, formulating, and implementing a programme of bringing up children in a certain way that is in line with the requirement of the family and society. In this process the child learns the moral values, ethical issues, expectations from the child by the family and society, and a set of patterns of behaviour which are essential for the proper growth and development of the child that would contribute positively to the family and the society.

This process involves inculcating in children certain values, attitudes, opinions and beliefs through direct teaching, modeling, and imitation. These acquired patterns of behaviour are reinforced by the parents by praise and reward and where the child learns wrong patterns of behaviour, the same is punished. Thus through the process of rewards and punishment the child rearing practices inculcate in children the required appropriate behaviours and conduct that are in line with the social norms and family norms.

Competent parenting has been found to be related to a warmer, more accepting, and more helpful styles of parenting. Competent parenting is competence-inducing in that it is characterised by sensitivity to children’s capabilities, developmental
milestones and recognises the child’s need for control and individuality and views the rights and duties of parents and children as complementary.


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