Attending a daycare facility or childcare centre is often the first real experience of life in society that a child will have without the presence of his or her parents. He or she will need to develop social and interpersonal relationship skills – a learning process that is intense, unavoidable, and sometimes brutal.
The Équipe de recherche sur les Pairs et la Prévention (Research Team on Peers and Prevention), directed by Frank Vitaro from Université de Montréal, is interested in the role of peers in the emotional, social and academic development of children and adolescents. Part of the team’s research pertains more specifically to the role of peers in preschool children, a developmental stage during which this role is little known and almost certainly underestimated. After following nearly 3,000 children from birth, including 550 pairs of twins, the research team was able to draw several interesting conclusions.
The results show that 4% of children between 3 and 6 years of age are chronically bullied by their peers, while one out of four children experiences occasional bullying. Many of these children continue to be victimized throughout their school career, which leads to feelings of depression, a deterioration in academic performance and aggressive or suicidal behaviour.
In an attempt to solve this problem, the research team is currently testing an intervention intended to encourage friendship development and reduce conflict in aggressive children, a procedure which could be useful to educators in child-care and school environments.
The research team is also working on the addition of a friendship-based component to the Fluppy program. Widely used in Quebec kindergartens, this program is aimed at prevention in aggressive-hyperactive children. The preliminary results of this experiment are already showing an improvement in the children’s social behaviour and academic performance, especially in the case of girls. The final results will be presented in 2011.
Équipe de recherche sur les Pairs et la Prévention
Frank Vitaro, Université de Montréal
- Rosemarie Mara Brendgen, Université du Québec à Montréal
- William Bukowski, Concordia University
- Stéphane Cantin, Université de Montréal
- François Poulin, Université du Québec à Montréal