Peer relation is one of the most important early childhood development experiences because it contributes to a child’s social connection, communal relationship, and interpersonal skills. As children develop and learn how to interrelate, peer relations become a crucial part of their lives.
Research conducted by an encyclopedia of early childhood development revealed that peer relations do not have an age perimeter. Therefore, infants and children from ages three to five already experience what it comprises.
This article discusses the positive and negative effects of peer relations on early childhood development.
Table of Contents
Definition of a Peer
A peer can be defined as an individual who is considered equivalent or similar to another individual in terms of age and capabilities. Similarly, a peer can be a member of a peer group, which is a group of people who have comparable interests.
What are Peer Relations?
The need to debate peer relations in early childhood development cannot be dodged because nearly all children are thought and brought up amid their peers. For example, a Grade 1 student will be thought with other Grade 1 student, a Grade 3 student will be thought with other Grade 3 students and so on. However, the essence of discussing peer relationships in early childhood is to understand the effects on children’s development.
Peer relations can be defined as the relationship and interaction between individuals within the same age range, and similar capabilities.
They are experiences that build a child’s emotional and social expertise because he/she can learn more about social behavior by interacting with peers. Moreover, research shows that peer relations sometimes determines how a child relates to the world because of several encounters he might have had.
The Role of Parents
Parents need to present themselves as good examples to their children. This is because children watch, memorize and imitate the actions of their parents. For example, when you tell a child to share things with others, you must make him understand why you told him to do so.
Most likely, a child will treat other children of his age based on the pieces of training and teachings he receives from home. For instance, a child cannot naturally segregate another child because of his background or his skin color. It may be due to what he is hearing or seeing at home.
Hence, by encouraging your child to interact with others, irrespective of their status, color, or background, you are helping the child to build his interpersonal skills. Moreover, peer relations also give children the opportunity to develop their emotional competence in several areas that include;
- Handling conflicts.
- Supporting one another
- Understanding the challenges of others
How does Peer Relations Affect the Development of a Child?
Research shows that peer relations often determines how a child progressively relate to people generally. In essence, children can also find solutions to their problems by interrelating with their peers and build skills in the process. Nonetheless, peer relations can affect children both positively and negatively.
Positive Effects of Peer Relations:
1. Interpersonal skill
A child can develop interpersonal skills by interacting with his peers. Typically, there are times when the child will need to perform group activities in school and he cannot avoid talking to other children in a group.
Therefore, the following are some of the ways to help children build interpersonal skills.
Children need to be trained to understand themselves (and others) and manage their feelings to interact properly. Hence, one of the ways to achieve this is by giving them the privilege to carry out assignments in groups.
Providers and teachers must help children to form a group in such a way that those who are not socially and emotionally intelligent can merge with those who are. For instance, a child who has naturally good cognitive skills can be merged with a child who struggles with cognitive abilities to help him develop better.
Naturally, a child may not agree or like the idea, but to do so is to help the child build his interpersonal skill. In essence, caregivers and teachers must also pay attention to the way children relate with each other, so as to correct negative peer relations.
Working together as a team is what children must learn in their learning centers and schools from a young age. Significantly, teamwork can give a child a sense of responsibility and leadership ability. Also, it fosters sociability without exclusion among children.
2. Emotional and Social Development
Peer relations is a necessity for healthy mental and social development. In the process of intermingling with peers, a child is automatically mounting his social conduct and mental health. Commonly, most children are happier when they play with other children of their age range.
It is important to note however that, all peer relations have their challenges. For instance, conflict may be inevitable while children relate with each other. Yet, this doesn’t eliminate the fact that peer relations (if positive) can contribute to their emotional and social development.
Negative Effects of Peer Relations
Peer relations can negatively affect the development of children as a result;
Bullying is the process of harming others deliberately by threatening them, using abusive words, or even assaulting them physically. Amazingly, it is not a piece of news that this mostly happens among children, especially in school. Some children are bullied into doing wrong and harmful things, while other children are being forced by their peers to bully vulnerable children.
According to a survey carried out by LD Online, Over 80 per cent of kids recounted witnessing bullying in their schools, while over 70 per cent recounted being prey to bullying.
Another survey claims that close to twenty per cent of children who encounter bullying become mentally affected later in their lives, even up till their middle ages.
Bullying cases often lead to victimization (the process or act of causing a person to become a victim by harassing, assaulting, or killing him/her). Victimization among peers is a major global concern. Children who are open to victimization are at risk of getting depressed or eventually committing suicide later in life.
Preventive measures against bullying:
– The Role of Parents:
Parents are the primary caregivers of their children. As a role model for your children, you must give them helpful guidelines that will aid them to overcome bullying. Some of these guidelines include;
You ought to train your child to stay confident whenever he encounters bullying situations. For example, if a child is being tormented by his peers about his looks, he should simply give a confident facial expression and posture that will keep him going. You should make him understand that nonverbal expressions like these are also a form of communication.
In addition, you should ensure that they understand the differences between being assertive and being aggressive.
Giving proper answers:
In cases like this, the child can say words that project buoyancy. Words that politely portray his intention. By doing this, they can gradually build their self-esteem. However, this does not mean he should retaliate by being violent because such a case may escalate the matter.
– The Role of Caregivers and teachers
As stated earlier, teachers and caregivers must monitor how children relate to one another so as to figure out the toxic ones. In particular, some children become victimized to the extent that they are threatened by the bullies not to say anything to anyone. Also, the bullying spots in schools should be well secured by school and learning centers authorities to avoid bullying experiences.
One of the situations that hurt children the most is exclusion. It is one of the dominant subjects in early childhood development. Over time, exclusion has caused challenges in parenting, teaching and interpersonal relations.
However, several reasons have caused children to exclude one another, and they include;
- – Gender dissimilarities
- – Race and colorism
- – Being content with just a friend
- – Inability to cope with more than a friend
- – Inability to cope with another child’s behavior
- – Anxiety and fear
Children may be involved in these, not knowing that they are hurting one another. By way of illustration, imagine if a child walks up to you as a caregiver, crying because his peers didn’t allow him to play. How would you feel?
Therefore, it’s important to train children to;
- Build empathy for others
- Be flexible
- Take risks
- Be sociable
- Be compassionate
- Tolerate one another
At Perfect Angels Learning Center, our learning programs and activities promote positive peer relations for children. Recommending and implementing solutions for children who undergo peer rejection are some of the skills of our providers.
This is because we understand that when children in a peer group offer themselves social and emotional support, it grows into a positive friendship.