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Parents’ reports on the Child Adaptive Behavior Inventory predict 4-year-olds’ playground behavior.

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James P. McHale

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Although prior research indicates that parental reports of their young children’s early social adaptation outside the home do not reconcile well with observations of social behavior in context, some of this inconsistency may be attributable to the “problem-oriented” biases inherent in many commonly used parent rating scales. Might greater concordance between parental reports and observational measures of social adaptation be found if parents described their children’s peer behavior on an instrument balancing questions about behavior problems with questions about social strengths and competencies? Fifty-one children, representing two full preschool cohorts, were assessed over four months of a regular preschool year by trained observers using a scan-sampling procedure. Every behavior observed (M = 355 per child) was categorized as either Prosocial, Negative, or Withdrawn, with two sublevels per category. Midway through the school year, mothers and fathers independently completed the most recent version of the Child Adaptive Behavior Inventory (CABI), an instrument which assesses both competencies (social and academic) and difficulties with adaptation. Multiple, domain-specific correlations were found tying both maternal and paternal ratings of children’s adaptation to observed social behavior on the preschool playground, with mothers’ ratings only slightly better predictors of playground behavior than fathers’. Agreement between parents on the various CABI subscales (Social Competence, Externalizing-Aggressive, Externalizing-Hyperactive, Internalizing- Socially Isolative, and Internalizing-Psychological symptoms) was also good, ranging from .33 to .83. These results indicate that parents may be better attuned to preschool social behavior than has previously been assumed. Further research with the CABI is needed to establish the instrument’s utility in predicting longitudinally the sequelae of early social adaptation.


Abstract only. Full-text article is available only through licensed access provided by the publisher. Published in Early Education & Development, 9(3), 307-322. Members of the USF System may access the full-text of the article through the authenticated link provided.




Psychology Press

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