Relations between preschooler social competence and coping tactics during resource-based conflicts

Olivia I. Nichols, Brian E. Vaughn, Gabrielle Coppola, Nana Shin, Lígia Monteiro, Lisa Krzysik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Although peer conflict is a common experience in preschool classrooms, few studies have examined relations between coping with peer conflict and social competence (SC) in preschool samples. In this study, 166 preschoolers (95 male) were observed during dyadic play episodes designed to induce a resource-based conflict. Coping tactics were coded using Zimmer-Gembeck and Skinner’s framework, and their relations with indicators of SC, assessed using direct observations and sociometric interviews, were tested. On average, dyadic play episodes produced 4.19 conflict events per partner, with children’s most common tactics being verbal and/or physical assertions (29% and 17% of all conflict events, respectively). Coping tactics showed moderate correspondence with current taxonomies, and regression analyses with SC demonstrated partial correspondence to studies of older children. Cooperative tactics reflected higher levels of SC, particularly for boys, and failure to cope with the dilemma (i.e., perseveration) reflected lower levels of SC. The use of disengaged tactics was not associated with SC, and only few differences in coping tactic use were associated with the dyad gender composition. Results suggest that coping tactics during resource-based conflicts among preschoolers are associated with measures of SC and, with slight adjustments, map onto existing frameworks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1051-1070
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research has been supported in part by grants: NSF grants BCS99‐83391, BCS01‐26163, BCS06‐23019, BCS 12‐51322, BCS 16‐51189 and by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch project ALA042‐1‐1402112.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • conflict
  • coping
  • gender differences
  • preschool
  • social competence


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