Printer Friendly

Teachers' perspectives of children's social behaviours in preschool: Does gender matter?


Social competence is a broad construct that encapsulates a range of constructs which young children use to navigate social situations, including social, emotional, behavioural and cognitive competencies and skills. Previous research has shown that failure to develop social competence in early childhood may lead to a cycle of negative social and academic relationships in future years (Denham et al., 2012), and that identifying social and behavioural issues in early childhood is essential, in order to provide intervention to increase the likelihood of later success (White, Connelly, Thompson, & Wilson, 2013). Social behaviours are a key aspect in children's development of social competence in early childhood and involve a child knowing what is acceptable and expected of them in social interactions (Lillvist, Sandberg, Bjorck-Akesson & Granlund, 2009).

The social behaviours investigated in this study are prosocial behaviours, social leadership, social dominance and aggressive behaviours. Prosocial behaviours are voluntary social acts directed towards others that do not have an expectation of reciprocation, such as kindness, empathy, sharing and cooperating (Carter & Ellis, 2016). Social leadership is when children give directions and commands to others, with whom they appear to have some influence, and from whom they receive cooperation and submission (Shin, Recchia, Lee, Lee, & Mullarkey, 2004), whereas social dominance is an urge to control resources and situations in a social group using coercive and direct methods of control (Hawley, 2003). Finally, aggressive behaviours are defined as 'behaviours that are intended to hurt, harm, or injure another person' (Murray-Close & Ostrov, 2009, p. 828); however, in young children the issue of intent can be difficult to determine. Aggression is often characterised into two categories: relational aggression, which includes behaviours that hurt another person through relationships, such as feelings of not being accepted, and group exclusion; and physical aggression, which includes behaviours that hurt another person using physical means, such as kicking, punching, and pushing (Murray-Close & Ostrov, 2009). Swit and McMaugh (2012) noted that when relational aggression is used repeatedly to target a person this can be defined as bullying. Bullying or the repeated use of relational aggression was not a focus in the present study. While there has been extensive research on the characteristics of the four social behaviours investigated in the present study, limited research has examined how gender might impact on children's display of this range of behaviours or teachers' perspectives of these behaviours in early childhood.

In New Zealand, the early childhood curriculum framework, Te Whariki, has a goal that states, 'children should experience an environment where there are equitable opportunities for learning, irrespective of gender, ability, age, ethnicity, or background' (Ministry of Education, 2017, p. 37). To best support each child's learning, teachers are expected to use gender equitable practices to ensure that a gender bias is not reflected in their practice (Aina & Cameron, 2011). This article explores the findings from a New Zealand based research study which investigated teachers' perspectives on social behaviours in young children, and whether gender influenced their perspectives. Teachers' practices in response to social behaviours in young children were also investigated but these findings are reported elsewhere. To set the context for the present study, research related to gender differences in children's social behaviours and teachers' beliefs are discussed prior to describing the rationale for the present study.

Literature review

Gender differences in social behaviours

There are many theories on how gender is developed in young children, from biological and socialisation theories to feminist poststructuralist theories. Biological theories believe gender is developed by the influence of genes and hormones (Ruble, Martin, & Berenbaum, 2006), while socialisation theories are the belief that gender is developed by social interactions as well as familial expectations of gender (Kanka, Wagner, Schober, & Spiel, 2011). Feminist poststructuralist theories are underpinned by the questioning of gender binary, with a major component of the theories involving the notion of gender discourses, where children take an active role in the development of their individual gender identity (Browne, 2004). Research on gender in education has been examined since the 1970s (Blaise & Taylor, 2012); however, early research has focused on an equal opportunities approach to gender which failed to acknowledge individual differences and diverse life experiences (Browne, 2004). In order to acknowledge and explore the assumptions about children's experiences of gender, later theories such as feminist post-structuralism and queer theory have been used to help support strategies for gender equity and social justice (Blaise, 2005). These types of strategies emphasise the importance of treating individuals fairly by considering their differences (Browne, 2004). A gender equity approach in education underpins this study.

There has been limited research that investigates how gender influences social behaviours in young children and how that influence is perceived by teachers. The studies that have been conducted tend to indicate mixed findings with inconclusive evidence. An example of this is Bouchard et al.'s (2015) study of perceived, expressed, and observed prosociality in three- and four-year-old children. Their study involved interviews with 22 teachers about prosocial behaviours (perceived prosociality), interviews with 174 children (expressed prosociality), and observations of 137 children (observed prosociality). It was found that the teachers in this study perceived that girls were more prosocial than boys; however, the expressed and observed findings found no gender difference. Bouchard and colleagues (2015) argued that the findings might suggest that teachers have gender biased ideas about girls being more prosocial than boys, which may inadvertently affect their teaching practice. In contrast, Swit and McMaugh (2012) identified no significant differences in teacher ratings of prosocial behaviours or relational aggression in boys and girls in their study of 60 children and their teachers. However, they did find that one in five preschool-age children in their study engaged in high levels of relational aggression, and that these children were more likely to have low levels of prosocial behaviours.

Another study that explored gender in relation to social behaviours was conducted by Lee, Recchia and Shin (2005), who investigated observed social leadership styles in four children and reported leadership styles through interviews with four early childhood teachers. They identified four distinct leadership styles, including: 'the Director', 'the Free Spirit', 'the Manager', and 'the Power Man'. Mawson (2010) replicated this study in a New Zealand kindergarten context using case study design and found similar leadership styles with distinct gender differences. He found that boys' leadership style was dictatorial, with control established through a mix of aggression and intimidation; while the girls' leadership style was directorial, and cooperation and negotiation skills were used.

As identified in the Bouchard et al. (2015) study, differences in social behaviours in boys and girls may be in the eye of the beholder. Within a socialisation paradigm the views of potential socialisers are likely to affect the child and their experiences. This study focuses on the role of teachers as a potential socialiser of children's experiences in early childhood education.

Teacher beliefs and perspectives

In New Zealand, 96.2% of four-year-olds attend an early childhood education service, with children attending 21.7 hours a week on average (Ministry of Education, 2018). Thus, early childhood teachers are highly influential in children's early life experiences, learning and development. Given the goals set in Te Whariki (Ministry of Education, 2017) it is important that children experience equitable opportunities and that teachers' perspectives of gender are not negatively impacting young children's learning and development.

The goals of the curriculum notwithstanding, Erden (2009) contends that teacher beliefs about gender have an impact on the teachers' behaviour towards children, and these beliefs also impact the learning and development that occurs. Younger and Warrington (2006) argue that most teachers think they treat all genders equally, however the perspectives about gender that teachers hold usually contradict this, which means that the children may be treated and interacted with differently.

A study conducted by Chapman (2016) investigated how early childhood teachers' perspectives of gender influenced where children played and how they engaged in play. Her study was based on a view from Aina and Cameron (2011) who stressed that early childhood is a crucial period for contesting gender stereotypes, and that teachers should support children to develop their own gender identities. The study was conducted with four teachers and 39 three- and four-year-olds through a process of interviews and observations. Findings suggested that teachers' perspectives of gender were transferred to children through planning, resources, feedback to the children, and the degree of teacher facilitation involved (Chapman, 2016). Thus, teachers have the potential to influence children's expectations and experiences based on the child's gender.

Fighting stereotypes and equitable practice

Te Whariki includes aspirational statements of equitable opportunities for all children, free from bias. While aspirational statements such as these should be clearly articulated and should guide teachers in their practice, there are often limited resources to support teachers

in their enactment of equitable practices, specifically in relation to gender. Moreover, limited research has been done to explore to what extent gender equity is occurring in early childhood centres in New Zealand and elsewhere. In the Chapman (2016) study, where teachers' perspectives were influenced by gender which in turn influenced children's experiences, the author explained that the Australian Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) has a strong emphasis on identity like Te Whariki. However, the EYLF has limited mention of gender, and provides no recommendations for supporting gender equity. To better understand issues of gender equity in early childhood, teachers' perspectives of gender and how it influences important areas of development such as social competence need to be examined.

The present study

Given the importance of the development of social competency and the potential for gender to influence social behaviours or teachers' perceptions of them in children, the present study examined teachers' perspectives of four social behaviours and how the gender of young children influences these perspectives. Data for this article were drawn from a larger research study and address the following research questions:

1. Do teachers report social behaviours as more or less prevalent in boys or girls in early childhood?

2. Are teachers' perspectives and strategies influenced by the gender of the child?


Theoretical framework

The present study was framed in an interpretive epistemology which seeks to understand individuals' interpretations of social reality (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2011), and where individuals construct subjective meaning of certain objects or things (Creswell, 2014). The study also sat within a pragmatic paradigm, which emphasises the research problem and utilises the most appropriate approaches to understand this problem (Creswell, 2014). Pragmatism is associated with mixed methods research, in that researchers use both qualitative and quantitative methods to explore their research problem. As the intent of this research was to gather individuals' perspectives, a mixed methods qualitative-quantitative research design utilising a comparative survey approach was devised that gave respondents the opportunity to describe their beliefs, practices and understanding of children's social behaviours in relation to child gender.

Survey design

This study used a mixed methods approach to design an online, anonymous survey to gather the perspectives of the participating teachers. A convergent-parallel mixed methods design (Creswell, 2014) was utilised where qualitative and quantitative data were collected at the same time; the data were first analysed separately and then combined to draw conclusions.

The survey consisted of 26 questions, which were made up of a combination of open-ended questions, multiple choice questions, and descriptive scenarios. The survey questions were separated into sections which included defining social behaviours, identifying prevalence of specific traits, and teacher practices in relation to specific scenarios. To address teachers' perspectives on the prevalence of social behaviours as observed more or less in boys or girls, a list of 40 pre-identified traits of the four social behaviours was constructed and teachers were asked to decide whether each trait was seen equally in both genders, seen more commonly in girls, or seen more commonly in boys.

To address whether teachers' perspectives and strategies were influenced by the gender of the child, scenarios provided short descriptions of children involved in typical social interactions. Teachers were asked to identify positive behaviours, concerning behaviours, and how they would respond to this interaction. Scenarios were constructed to have a mix of potentially positive and concerning behaviours. To allow investigation of differential responses related to children's gender, two versions of the survey were created which differed by the gender of the children portrayed in social behaviour scenarios (see Appendix A). All other sections and questions were the same across the two versions referred to as survey A and survey B.


Invitations to participate in the research were sent to teachers in selected kindergarten associations. New Zealand kindergartens are community-based, not-for-profit organisations that are predominately for children aged between three and five years old (New Zealand Kindergartens, 2009). A purposive sampling strategy was used to send invitations to three kindergarten associations across the North Island of New Zealand. These three kindergarten associations were small to mid-range associations that represent a range of diverse contexts from urban to rural settings. Across the three associations, 39 kindergartens were invited to participate in the research study. As there were two versions of the survey, half of the kindergartens received the link for version A and the other half received the link for version B. This was achieved by ordering the kindergartens alphabetically within their association, and alternate kindergartens were sent the A or B variant in order to balance possible responses within each association. Purposive sampling was used to ensure the manageability of analysis in response to the open-ended and scenario-based questions.

Ethical considerations

Ethics approval for this study was gained through the Massey University Human Ethics Committee (SOB 16/36). A full ethics application was submitted as a low level of deception was inherent in having two versions of the survey. Teachers who participated were not aware of the two versions until after they had completed the survey, as this knowledge may have influenced potential responses. To address this minor deception used in the study design, all participants were informed at the conclusion of the survey that there were two survey versions which differed by the gender of children in the scenarios and they were offered the opportunity for further clarification if desired.

Data analysis

As both qualitative and quantitative questions were involved in this study, the data were separated by question and analysed individually then later combined to draw conclusions. The responses to the quantitative questions were analysed using simple descriptive statistics in the form of frequency and percentage of respondents. Quantitative comparisons were examined descriptively due to the low response rate for the survey and the large number of comparisons. Responses to the qualitative questions were analysed using a thematic and content analysis procedure to determine emerging categories of key themes (Cohen, et al., 2011). Separate ideas in the participants' responses were given an initial open code, following which these codes were categorised into broader classifications of core themes, which were informed through the literature. Where appropriate, qualitative data sets for specific questions were transformed into quantitative measures, such as counts of the key themes that emerged from teacher responses, using a procedure called data transformation (Creswell, 2014). This allowed for comparison between themes in response to the scenario sections of the two versions of the survey.

Prior to the thematic analysis of the scenario section, the responses were randomized by the research supervisors by intermixing responses from survey A and survey B, while also removing any indication of gender from the responses (gendered names replaced with neutral names, pronouns switched to his/her or s/he). This procedure was used to ensure teachers responses to scenarios were analysed without the researcher knowing the gender of the child that had been presented to the teacher. Afterwards, the research supervisors organized the data back into survey versions so that a comparison of themes that emerged from the survey versions could occur.



Of the 39 kindergartens invited to participate, there were 17 responses for survey A and 13 responses for survey B. After checking the responses, any participants who had not answered questions after the demographic section were excluded from analysis, resulting in a total of 24 completed responses (12 in each survey version). There were 23 female participants (96%) and one male participant (4%), who ranged in age groups from 20-29 years up to 60+ years, with the majority of participants over 40 years of age (78.5%). Years of teaching experience varied across the participants, but the majority had over 10 years' experience (70.5%), with over a third having more than 20 years' teaching experience (37.5%). All participants were qualified teachers, with over half holding a Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood Education) (58%) and a further 25% holding a Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Early Childhood Education).

Reports of prevalence

Across the list of 40 pre-identified social behaviour traits, the majority of responses indicated that they were seen equally in both genders, however, some specific traits were reported as more common in girls or boys. In the prosocial behaviour traits (Figure 1), the majority of responses indicated teachers reported that prosocial behaviour traits were seen equally in both genders, or when a specific gender was identified, it favoured girls. For example, the trait of greets teachers and other children was identified by 78% of participants as being seen equally, while 17% identified it as being seen more in girls. In contrast, certain other prosocial traits were identified by the majority as being seen more in girls, such as expresses their feelings and emotions, where 52% of participants indicated that this behaviour trait was seen more in girls.

The trends reported in the social leadership behaviour traits were comparable to the prosocial behaviour traits responses, with the majority of responses identified as seen equally in both genders (Figure 2). However, when a gendered response was given, girls were favoured, with a small number of responses in favour of boys being identified for a few social leadership behaviour traits. For example, uses persuasive language was reported as being seen more in girls by 61% of participants, with the remaining responses reported as being seen equally.

For social dominance (Figure 3), the majority of the responses are still seen equally in both genders, however, these traits were more often reported as seen more in boys than in girls across the behaviours identified. For example, the behaviour trait of uses force to get another child to do what they want was reported by 82% of the participants as seen more in boys with the remaining 18% as being equal.

The aggression behaviour traits were separated into both relational and physical aggression, as they have distinct characteristics. As show in Figures 4 and 5, the majority of relational and physical aggression traits were reported as seen equally in both genders, however, when a gendered response was given, seen more commonly in girls was reported more for relational aggression while seen more commonly in boys was reported for physical aggression. One of the behaviour traits for relational aggression was tells other children they won "t be their friend anymore, which was reported by the majority as being seen more in girls (52%), while 44% of participants reported it as being equal, and the final 4% reported this trait as being seen more in boys. Furthermore, one of the traits for physical aggression was pushes the boundaries of rough and tumble play, which was reported as seen more in boys by 87% of participants, with the remaining 13% reporting it as equal.

Scenario data

The teachers were given four scenarios which each depicted young children involved in a typically occurring conflict involving one of the social behaviours under investigation. The children depicted in these scenarios differed by gender across the two survey versions. For example, one of the scenarios depicted an example of social leadership amongst boys in survey A, and the same scenario was used but with girls in survey B (Appendix A). Teachers were asked to explain any positive behaviours they identified, as well as any concerning behaviours. Teachers' written descriptions were coded by the researcher, identified with behaviour classifications to summarise meaning, and classifications were then transformed into a percentage in order to compare response rates. The following sections describe the findings related to the positive and concerning behaviours identified, in terms of descriptive differences in percentage of respondents.

The majority of responses indicated that there was little difference in teacher's views of positive and concerning social behaviours depicted in the scenarios. However, there were a few specific positive and concerning behaviour classifications identified by the researcher that indicate that teachers may have differing perspectives of some social behaviours depending on the gender of the children involved. Table 1 shows the positive and concerning behaviours identified for the social dominance scenario. The positive behaviour classification of playing together was identified by 33% of survey A (boys) participants, but none of the survey B participants identified it as a positive behaviour in girls; rather, the specific skill of asking for a turn was a larger focus for identification in girls.

The positive and concerning behaviours identified in the prosocial behaviour scenario were also similar across both survey versions. For example, one classification identified in the prosocial scenario (Table 2) was shows empathy, which was identified by 53% of survey A (girls), and by 42% of survey B (boys). There were also four concerning behaviour classifications that were only identified in one version of the survey and not the other. For example, didn't find a teacher, child having little resilience, and egocentric were only identified in survey B (boys) by 7% of participants each, while lack of empathy was identified by 11% of survey A (girls) participants.

The aggression scenario was where the participants had the most apparently gendered perspectives on the positive and concerning behaviours that were shown in the scenario (Table 3). There were only two positive behaviour classifications that were similar across both survey versions, which were communication and none (no positive behaviour identified). There were also some distinct differences in the concerning behaviour classifications identified, for example manipulation was identified by 35% of survey B (girls) participants, while no participants from survey A (boys) identified manipulation as a concerning behaviour.

The responses to the social leadership behaviour scenario also had some distinct differences across the behaviour classifications (Table 4). For example, 40% of survey A (girls) participants identified working together as a positive behaviour, while a further 20% identified leadership skills as a positive behaviour. However, the responses from survey B (boys) participants were the opposite, with 23% identifying working together as a positive behaviour, while 45% identified leadership skills.


Findings from the present study suggest some possible trends in the ways that New Zealand teachers report and perceive social behaviours in young children based on the child's gender. Findings from the list of possible social behaviour traits showed that the majority of teachers believed that most of the traits were seen equally in both genders. In many ways, this perception was supported in the scenarios in which teachers generally identified similar positive or concerning behaviours regardless of the gender of the child in each scenario. These findings are somewhat counter to the ideas presented by Chapman (2016), who argued that teachers' perspectives of behaviours in young children were consistent with the child's gender.

However, there were some instances where certain behaviour traits were identified with a gendered expectation. For example, the prosocial behaviour trait of expresses their feelings and emotions was identified at a higher rate for girls than equally across genders. Other traits that had similar response rates were empathetic towards others and resolves conflicts. Bouchard et al. (2015) suggests that teachers perceive girls as being more prosocial than boys due to a heightened emotional intelligence; however, researcher observed behaviours in their study do not mimic the teachers' perspectives. The present study is not able to address whether teachers' perspectives would be supported or challenged from research observations of children. Nonetheless, because girls were indicated more in traits involving emotions and resolving conflicts, the present study lends support to the assertion that teachers may perceive girls as more prosocial than boys, particularly in areas related to emotions and empathy.

Social dominance was another area in the behaviour traits section where there were a few specific traits that teachers believed are seen more in boys, in particular uses force to get another child to do what they want. Interestingly, this behaviour trait is comparable to one of Mawson's (2010) identifications of social leadership in preschool boys. From his research Mawson noted that boys' leadership tended to use aggression and intimidation.

As noted above, most of the teachers generally reported the behaviour traits as seen equally in both genders and identified similar positive and concerning behaviours across scenarios, with a few notable exceptions. The first being that girls are perceived as more prosocial and boys as more aggressive, and the second exception is an unanticipated finding in the data from the relational aggression scenario. In this scenario, the positive behaviour classification of ability to play with someone else was identified by 36% of survey A (boys), but by none of the participants from survey B (girls). This might suggest that even though teachers can identify the trait during a conflict situation, they may take the behaviour for granted in girls and not report it, while seeing it as noteworthy in boys and making sure to mention it.

Overall, the present study indicates a generally non-gendered view of social behaviours, however, the notable exceptions are consistent with past research where differences have been identified in relation to social skills and aggression. Thus, the study contributes to a growing body of research that examines how gender may influence children's social behaviours, as well as how teachers' perspectives may be influenced by the child's gender.

Strengths and limitations

The main strength of this study was the mixed methods design used to collect both qualitative and quantitative data from an online, anonymous survey. Using this mixed methods survey allowed for questions that probed into a complex belief-based issue that may have left the teachers feeling uncomfortable without anonymity. Moreover, the use of two versions of the survey, which differed by gender of the children involved in the behaviour scenarios, allowed the teachers to respond without knowledge that their responses would be compared by gender. Teachers were informed of this deception upon completion of the survey and invited to contact the researcher or supervisors if they had questions or concerns. One of the unique features of this study, compared to past research, is that teachers were asked to identify social behaviours in boys and girls in general, rather than specifically rating social behaviours of individual children in their care.

One of the limitations of this research study was the small number of responses that were obtained through the anonymous survey. The three kindergarten associations who were sent the invitation to participate were chosen due to their location, as well as their ease of contact, and are small to medium sized associations. Not as many kindergarten teachers were reached as could have been if more or larger kindergarten associations had been recruited. The sampling design and response rate also impacted on the generalisability of the results of this study. Nonetheless, the findings provide an insight into some teachers' perspectives that should be further examined with a larger pool of respondents.

It is also important to note that this study focused on gender as a binary concept and differentiated teachers' perspectives between boys and girls only. In today's society, increasing gender affiliations are being used and a binary approach is not able to accommodate these. Moreover, there are many differing perspectives on gender and gender identity development, and broader ways to investigate gender issues, such as the idea of exploring various aspects of masculinity and femininity in young children, which were not explored in the present study.

Implications and future directions

The findings from the present study suggest that gender may influence teachers' perspectives of specific social behaviours in young children with most social behaviors identified as gender neutral. As a starting point, more research is needed in this area. This research should address whether the findings from this study are comparable across the early childhood sector in New Zealand by gathering the perspectives of a larger and broader sample of early childhood teachers. More specifically, this research could be strengthened with observations of the behaviours being enacted by children of different genders, while also addressing the teachers' perspectives.

Nonetheless, there is enough preliminary research in the extant literature to suggest a proactive approach to combating potential gender stereotypes, such as girls are more prosocial and boys are more aggressive. The need to combat gender stereotypes is indicated in Te Whariki as well as research on the potential negative impacts that gender stereotypes can have on young children. Research has shown that children judge each other based on internalised gender role stereotypes, such as boys with feminine haircuts or clothes were accepted less by their peers than girls who had male haircuts or clothes (Blakemore, 2003). Given the potential of teachers to socialise these gendered expectations and stereotypes in children, a proactive approach to addressing teachers gendered perspectives is needed.

Thus, initial teacher training and continued teacher professional learning and development (PLD) should address issues of gender equity in early childhood education. Cochran-Smith et al. (2016) describe the importance of ensuring that teachers are taught practices for equity during their initial teacher education (ITE). The researchers emphasise the notion of developing 'patterns of practice for equity' where equity is placed at the center of ITE and beginning teachers incorporate these practices for equity into their everyday teaching practices (Cochran-Smith, et al., 2016). Future PLD could include workshops around educating teachers about gender equity and intentional teaching practices that ensure equity for all children and families.

This study contributed to a growing field of research about gender differences in children's social behaviours, as well as providing some evidence for the need to understand and ensure gender equity in early childhood education in New Zealand. Ensuring gender equity is important to combat gender stereotypes and provide opportunities for children to develop their own gender identity. From this, future research should include an examination of teachers' perspectives across early childhood sectors in New Zealand, as well as developing formal PLD to aid teachers in ensuring gender equity in their teaching practices.

Declaration of conflicting interests

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: We would like to acknowledge the support of Massey University through the Massey University Summer Dissemination Grant for Master's Research.


Aina, O. E., & Cameron, P. A. (2011). Why does gender matter? Counteracting stereotypes with young children. Dimensions of Early Childhood, 39, 11-20.

Blaise, M. (2005). Playing it straight: Uncovering gender discourses in the early childhood classroom. New York, NY: Routledge.

Blaise, M., & Taylor, A. (2012). Using queer theory to rethink gender equity in early childhood education. Young Children, 67, 88-97.

Blakemore, J. (2003). Children's beliefs about violating gender norms: Boys shouldn't look like girls, and girls shouldn't act like boys. Sex Roles, 48, 411-419.

Bouchard, C, Coutu, S., Bigras, N., Lemay, L., Cantin, G., Bouchard, M., & Duval, S. (2015). Perceived, expressed, and observed prosociality among four-year-old girls and boys in childcare centres. Early Child Development and Care, 185, 44-65.

Browne, N. (2004). Gender equity in the early years. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press.

Carter, M. A., & Ellis, C. (2016). Work 'with' me: Learning prosocial behaviours. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 41, 106-114.

Chapman, R. (2016). A case study of gendered play in preschools: How early childhood educators' perceptions of gender influence children's play. Early Child Development and Care, 186, 1271-1284. DOI: 10.1080/03004430.2015.1089435.

Cochran-Smith, M., Ell, F., Grudnoff, L., Haigh, M., Hill, M., & Ludlow, L. (2016). Initial teacher education: What does it take to put equity at the center? Teaching and Teacher Education, 57, 67-78.

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2011). Research methods in education (7th ed.). London, UK: Routledge.

Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., Thayer, D. K., Mincic, M. S., Sirotkin, Y. S., & Zinsser, K. (2012). Observing preschoolers' social-emotional behaviour: Structure, foundations and predictions of early school success. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 173, 246-278.

Erden, F. T. (2009). A course on gender equity in education: Does it affect gender role attitudes of preservice teachers? Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 409-414.

Hawley, P. H. (2003). Strategies of control, aggression, and morality in pre-schoolers: An evolutionary perspective. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 85, 213-235

Kanka, M., Wagner, P., Schober, B., & Spiel, C. (2011). Gender-stereotyped attitudes and behaviour in kindergarten students. The International Journal of Learning, 18, 291-303.

Lee, S. Y., Recchia, S. L., & Shin, M. S. (2005). 'Not the same kind of leaders': Four young children's unique ways of influencing others. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 20, 132-148.

Lillvist, A., Sandberg, A., Bjorck-Akesson, E., & Granlund, M. (2009). The construct of social competence: How preschool teachers define social competence in young children. International Journal of Early Childhood, 41, 51-68.

Mawson, B. (2010). Gender and leadership styles in children's play. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 35, 115-123.

Ministry of Education. (2017). Te Whariki: Ho whariki matauranga mo nga mokopuna o Aotearoa: Early childhood curriculum. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education.

Ministry of Education. (2018). Hours of participation in ECE. Retrieved from

Murray-Close, D., & Ostrov, J. M. (2009). A longitudinal study of forms and functions of aggressive behaviour in early childhood. Child Development, 80, 828-842.

New Zealand Kindergartens. (2009). New Zealand kindergartens incorporated: Te Putahi Kura Puhou o Aotearoa. Retrieved from

Ruble, D., Martin, C, & Berenbaum, S. (2006). Gender development. In N. Eisenberg (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology (6th ed., Vol. 3, pp. 858-933). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Shin, M. S., Recchia, S. L., Lee, S. Y., Lee, Y. J., & Mullarkey, L. S. (2004). Understanding early childhood leadership: Emerging competencies in the context of relationships. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 2, 301-316.

Swit, C. S., & McMaugh, A. (2012). Relational aggression and prosocial behaviours in Australian preschool children. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 37, 30-34.

White, J., Connelly, G., Thompson, L., & Wilson, P. (2013). Assessing wellbeing at school entry using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire: Professional perspectives. Educational Research, 55, 87-98.

Younger, M., & Warrington, M. (2006). Would Harry and Hermione have done better in single-sex classes? A review of single-sex teaching in coeducational secondary schools in the United Kingdom. American Educational Research Journal, 43, 579-620.

Appendix A: Example of scenario

Social leadership--Survey A

A group of children have moved into the family comer to play, and decide they want to throw a pretend birthday party for one of the teachers. Molly starts telling the other children what things they need to find, such as plates, cups, a table cloth, some balloons and a present for the teacher. Kylie has been told to find the cups for the table, but she tells Molly that she wants to find a present instead. Molly says, "No Kylie, you can't! I've told you to get cups. If you don't get them, you won't be able to play with us because everybody has a job to do."

Social leadership--Survey B

A group of children have moved into the family corner to play, and decide they want to throw a pretend birthday party for one of the teachers. Patrick starts telling the other children what things they need to find, such as plates, cups, a table cloth, some balloons and a present for the teacher. Henry has been told to find the cups for the table, but he tells Patrick that he wants to find a present instead. Patrick says, "No Henry, you can't! I've told you to get cups. If you don't get them, you won't be able to play with us because everybody has a job to do."

Jessica Smith

Institute of Education, Massey University, New Zealand

Tara McLaughlin

Institute of Education, Massey University, New Zealand

Karyn Aspden

Institute of Education, Massey University, New Zealand

Corresponding author:

Jessica Smith, Institute of Education, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


DOI: 10.1177/1836939119870889
Table 1. Social dominance scenario behaviour classifications and
response rates across survey versions.

                                    Survey  Survey
                                    A boys  B girls
Behaviour classification            (%)     (%)

  Positive behaviours
  Asking for a turn                 33      54
  Playing together                  33       0
  Communication                     17      23
  Agency                            11      15
  Negotiation                        6       0
  Directive/ controlling behaviour   0       8
Concerning behaviours
  Excluding others                  35      45
  Taking/ controlling resources     35      27
  Directive/ controlling behaviour  10      18
  Lack of negotiation               15      10
  Manipulating the situation         5       0

Table 2. Prosocial scenario behaviour classifications and response
rates across survey versions.

                                    Survey   Survey
                                    A girls  B boys
Behaviour classification            (%)      (%)

  Positive behaviours
  Shows empathy                     53       42
  Supporting friendships            33       37
  Helping others                    14       21
Concerning behaviours
  Other children continued playing  67       72
  Didn't find a teacher              0        7
  Child having little resilience     0        7
  Egocentric                         0        7
  Lack of empathy                   11        0
  None                              22        7

Table 3. Aggression scenario behaviour classifications and response
rates across survey versions.

                                     Survey  Survey
                                     A boys  B girls
Behaviour classification             (%)     (%)

  Positive behaviours
  Ability to play with someone else  36       0
  Communication                      27      29
  Common interest                    10       0
  Persistence in joining peers        0      21
  Initially working together          0       7
  Conflict is normal                  0       7
  Dealing with emotions               0       7
  None (no positive behaviours       27      29
Concerning behaviours
  Verbal/relational actions          34      15
  Excluding their peers              50      40
  Lack of problem solving             8      10
  Normal four-year-old behaviour      8       0
  Manipulation                        0      35

Table 4. Social leadership scenario behaviour classifications and
response rate across survey versions.

                                   Survey   Survey
                                   A girls  B boys
Behaviour Classification           (%)      (%)

Positive behaviours
  Working together                 40       23
  Communication                    13        0
  Leadership skills                20       45
  Agency                           20       17
  Role sharing                      7        5
  Negotiation                       0        5
  Directorial                       0        5
Concerning behaviours
  Unable to consider peer's idea   21       20
  Inflexibility                    16       20
  Lack of negotiation              21       13
  Excluding peer                   21        7
  Agency                            7        0
  Controlling behaviour             7       26
  Lack of knowledge about empathy   0        7
  Dictator                          0        7
  None                              7        0
COPYRIGHT 2019 Sage Publications Ltd. (UK)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2019 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Article
Author:Smith, Jessica; McLaughlin, Tara; Aspden, Karyn
Publication:Australasian Journal of Early Childhood
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Dec 1, 2019
Previous Article:Children's drawings speak a thousand words in their transition to school.
Next Article:Early childhood educators' attitudes toward science teaching in Chinese schools.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters