Within the field of child psychology much emphasis has been placed on the relationship and interactions of mother and child (Harris, 1998; Pinker, 2002). This essay intends to highlight the significance of another kind of interaction, that of the child and his/her siblings and peers, with the view to show how this type of interaction can have an impact on subsequent development. In the process, the essay will evaluate the research carried out and the evidence gained within this area by way of critical analysis. As an added aid the essay will take examples from the video material: Media Kit Part 1, Video Band 2: Zero to Hero as supplied by Open University (2006).
The type of interaction mainly focused upon here is play; as this is the catalysis by which young children, from toddler-hood onwards, engage with other children. Littleton and Miell (2005) recognise this type of interaction as ‘important sites for development’ where new skills can be acquired and tested out in ways that could not with adults.
To help better define this type of relationship between sibling and peers it is perhaps best to distinguish them from the other main type of relationship that children find themselves in. Schaffer, (1996) uses the term vertical relationship to describe a type of relationship that is characterised by an inequality of social power and knowledge level between adult and child. It is marked also by a complementarity of roles whereby the child may ask for help and a parent or caregiver may offer it.
This is in contrast to the horizontal relationship that is marked more so for its reciprocity and equality of social power and knowledge. A good example being between two children of similar age. This peer relationship is similar in nature to that of sibling relationships however as Schaffer (1996) notes, in this case the sibling relationship has the unique quality of being able to share both characteristics of, on the one hand reciprocity, whereby siblings can co-operate successfully in play situations and on the other, a marked age difference can see the older sibling as part time teacher and guide.
This idea would have had its beginnings in the early social constructivism perspective. Vygotsky (1986) purported the belief that interaction and collaboration with peers equal and more capable, promotes learning and creates what he called a Zone of Proximal Development, where children of different abilities learn from each other. One of the methods they do this is by what Schaffer (2003) describes as ‘scaffolding’ whereby support is offered for learning however the task is not simplified.
The ability to play with others has also been described as a ‘skilled interactional accomplishment’ because of the complex skills involved, such as sensitivity to the needs of others, negotiation and conflict management skills (Littleton and Miell, 2005).
But to play with people on must have the ability to join in with others. In the video Zero to Hero supplied by Open University (2006), Professor Robert Winston lists certain factors that affect a child’s ability to join in with others including premature birth, shyness and laughter. Smith et al., (1999) sees laughter as an important social signal for children within play fighting both for the child to use and for the child to interpret others meaning of it.
Smith et al., (1999) also cite the ability to regulate emotion, turn-taking skills and the ability to understand another person’s point of view as important social skills, not just needed for successful social interaction but are actively developed and practiced in play situations.
Open University (2006) illustrates these points by showing the use of classic experiments such as a version of the ‘marshmallow’ experiment (Mescle, 1974) where a child is sat in front of a marshmallow and told that he/she can have twice the amount if they can wait a specified time. Its been suggested from results that children able to...
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