Social behavior patterns of nonhandicapped and developmentally disabled friend pairs in mainstream preschools

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The purposes of this observation study were: a) to assess the presence or absence of stated friendships between normally developing and developmentally disabled children in mainstream preschools; and b) to compare the interaction patterns in friendship dyads comprised of nonhandicapped children with those comprised of one handicapped and one developmentally disabled child. Observational data were collected across a 15-day period for two sets of 30 dyads: one nonhandicapped only set and another including one developmentally disabled child. The major results showed that: a) nonhandicapped preschoolers tend to select nonhandicapped friends of their same sex and age; b) the same nonhandicapped preschoolers tend to select handicapped children who are older than themselves, who are more advanced cognitively than other handicapped children, and who are of the same sex; c) nonhandicapped preschoolers directed many more initiations of Reward-Related Activity, Complimentary Verbal Statements, Play Organizers, and Share behaviors toward nonhandicapped as opposed to handicapped friends; d) nonhandicapped preschoolers directed many more episodes of Physical Assistance, Affection, and Conflict Resolution toward handicapped as opposed to nonhandicapped friends; e) the initiations of nonhandicapped preschoolers were often reciprocated by nonhandicapped friends, but seldom by handicapped friends; f) nonhandicapped friends were far more likely to initiate positive social behaviors toward nonhandicapped preschoolers than were handicapped friends; and g) nonhandicapped preschoolers responded positively at an equal level to the initiations of handicapped and nonhandicapped friends.

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