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Intergenerational personal/social skills development study.

The following article describes the project, goals, and outcomes of a research project, submitted by Vicki Rosebrook, which was selected as a winner of the 2006 Elizabeth Breathwaite Mini-Grant. As a recipient of this prestigious award, Rosebrook was provided funding to complete this project.

The "health" of our society is reliant upon the social, physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual well-being of each individual it is made up of. For many years, healthy individuals and family units constituted the infrastructure of a fully functioning society in the United States. Over the years, however, the social structure of our society seems to be eroding. In this country, we work to prevent drug abuse, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, youth suicide, and violence. Still, the disconnectedness, emptiness, and meaninglessness that individuals feel are virtually ignored and may well be the root of the problem. In just one generation, America has undergone massive social change (Conniff, 1999).

Intergenerational programs unite people of different ages and provide opportunities for individuals, families, and communities to enjoy and benefit from the richness of a culturally and generationally diverse society that encompasses the needs and interests of the individuals involved. Reflecting on the numbers of young children and senior adults who are now, or those who could potentially be, involved in intergenerational programs and the lack of empirical research, there appears to be a need for further investigation into program benefits. The purpose of this study was to research the personal/social developmental skills of preschool children involved in intergenerational programs and determine: Does the intergenerational phenomenon influence the personal/social development of 3- and 4-year-old children in preschool settings?

In 2001, Dr. Vicki Rosebrook, of the Macklin Intergenerational Institute in Findlay, Ohio, completed research related to the personal/social skills of preschool children. The study, Intergenerational Connections Enhance the Personal/Social Skills of Young Children, compared the personal/social skills of children involved in intergenerational programs and children involved in non-intergenerational programs. The results of the 2001 study indicated that children in intergenerational programs had personal/social skills that were enhanced by 5.84 months, compared to children in non-intergenerational programs.

Rosebrook believed the significance of this finding justified replication of the research. Funding from ACEI's Elizabeth Breathwaite Mini-Grant enabled the Macklin Institute to replicate the study. The second study again investigated the personal/ social development of preschool children not involved in intergenerational programs. The hypothesis of the 2005 research was that preschool children involved in intergenerational programs are more likely to have higher personal/social development scores as compared to preschool children involved in non-intergenerational programs.

The study was conducted during the 2005 school year at one intergenerational (experimental group) and two non-intergenerational (control group) preschool centers in Hancock County, in northwest Ohio. The target population was 200 preschool children who were of similar socioeconomic, racial, and cultural backgrounds. Comparative analysis was used to determine if there was a significant difference between the personal/social development levels of each group.

On average, the children in the experimental group had been interacting with senior adults for 12 months prior to the administration of the assessments for this study. The Personal/Social component of the Learning Accomplishment Profile (LAP) was the evaluative tool used to assess the children's personal/social development. The profile's primary focus is the developmental range of 36 to 72 months. The scores of both groups of 100 children were sub-grouped into 3-year-old and 4-year-old scores. Assessment scores were entered into the computer accordingly and proportionate random selections were made. This resulted in 10 three-year-old children and 15 four-year-old children being selected from these subgroups.

The preschool children in the experimental group achieved higher developmental scores on the Personal/Social component of the LAP than preschool children in the control group. Additional data analysis revealed that a greater number of children in the control group scored toward the low end of the distribution scores and fewer scored on the high end of the distribution scores. The results of this study support the hypothesis. It was determined that these results support the assertion that generationally enriched environments do enhance the personal/social development of preschool children.

Through intergenerational programs, children and older people are empowered to interact and establish caring relationships. Intergenerational programming remedies the problems of generational isolation, while rebuilding the structure of the family. These multiage relationships are fundamental if there is any hope of eliminating our country's societal "health" problem--disconnectedness.

It is true that children and senior adults are unique individuals. However, when united in continued interaction, they learn to cope and compensate as they face similar challenges at different life stages. The outcome of intergenerational programs is ultimately self-confidence, which becomes the foundation of ongoing personal/social development for both children and senior adults.

This study presents substantial evidence that validates the benefits of intergenerational programming for young children. When additional positive outcomes are realized, an overall feeling of connectedness will emerge. As quality intergenerational programs materialize, one by one, lives are transformed, and in the end, society also changes--for the better.

References

Conniff, R., (1999). America's day care dilemma. Intellectual Capital Network. Retrieved from http:// intellectualcapital.com/issues324/ item7352.asp.

Rosebrook, V. (2001). Intergenerational connections enhance the personal/social skills of young children. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Clayton College, Birmingham, AL.
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Title Annotation:ACEI Mini-Grant Project
Author:Rosebrook, Vicki
Publication:Childhood Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2007
Words:877
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