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Young children's social and emotional competence in mixed-age interaction within family child care
The development of social and emotional competence is a vital component in creating and maintaining positive relationships with others, especially during the early childhood years. As preschool-aged children spend increasing amounts of time in nonparental care (Johnson, 2005), opportunities to express, regulate, and respond to emotions in social situations increase. Measures are being developed to assess support for children's social and emotional competence in addition to academic outcomes (e.g., Classroom Environment Scoring System (CLASS; Pianta, La Paro, & Hamre, 2012); however, measures do not yet take into account cultural differences in adults' goals for children or cultural differences in age-segregated or mixed-age groupings. The goals of this present study are to 1) use exploratory qualitative methods to identify a range of support that family child care providers offer for children's social and emotional competence within mixed-age interaction and 2) subsequently explore associations between such support and children's social and emotional competence as measured with a standardized, quantitative measure. The results indicate varying levels of support for children's social and emotional competence in addition to the providers' views of having mixed ages. The findings indicate a preliminary support for the notion that views of mixed age interaction and support for children's social and emotional competence are related to children's social and emotional competence, but the pattern of results appears to be complex. The findings suggest the need to further examine conditions under which dimensions of seeing and supporting social and emotional competence are applicable in other contexts.