The Role of Beliefs About the Importance of Social Skills in Elementary Children’s Social Behaviors and School Attitudes
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Positive attitudes toward school have been suggested as a meaningful indicator of school engagement among elementary children. The current study was guided by a social cognitive developmental perspective which suggests that social cognitions, including beliefs, play an important role in children’s adjustment outcomes.
The present study examined the hypothesis that children’s beliefs about the importance of social skills contribute to school attitudes through their effect on social behavior (i.e., social skills and aggression). The effect of gender was also examined as related to the mean levels of and associations among study constructs.
Participants were third through fifth-grade students (N = 342) and their teachers (N = 22) from Midwestern rural communities of the United States. Child self-reports, peer nominations, and teacher ratings were gathered.
Children’s beliefs about the importance of social skills were positively associated with social skills and positive school attitudes and were negatively associated with aggression. Beliefs about the importance of social skills were indirectly related to positive school attitudes via social behaviors (i.e., social skills, aggression). Gender differences were detected in the mean levels of study constructs but not in the associations among them.
Findings suggest that children’s beliefs about social skills are an important aspect of social cognition that has significant implications for children’s social behavior and school adjustment. Specific ways in which the findings can inform educators and parents in supporting the development of children’s beliefs about the importance of social skills are discussed.
KeywordsAggression Beliefs about social skills Elementary children School attitudes School engagement Social skills
This study was supported by a federal grant awarded to Drs. Susan Sheridan and Todd Glover by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences (Grant #R305B080010). The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and are not considered reflective of the funding agency.
All participants gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study: parent consent for their child’s participation, teacher consent, and child assent.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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