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Observational Study of Positive Social Reinforcement in the Nursery School Peer Group NICHD

Charlesworth, Rosalind; Hartup, Willard W
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Nursery Schools, Observation, Peer Relationship, Positive Reinforcement, Preschool Children, Social Reinforcement


An observational method was devised for obtaining normative information on the amount and kinds of positive social reinforcement dispensed by preschool aged children to each other in nursery school. Data were collected in four preschool classes. It was found that children in the older groups reinforced their peers at a significantly higher rate than those in the younger groups and that the amount of reinforcement given was positively related to the amount received. Reinforcement was dispensed in a higher proportion when a child was engaged in dramatic play activity than when he or she was engaged in other pursuits (such as art, music, or table games). About half the reinforcements were given in response to overtures from the recipients and half spontaneously. The consequence of reinforcement was, in largest proportion, the continuation of the recipient's activity at the time of reinforcement.

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