Young children need social skills for better mental health

New research from the University of Cambridge finds that children who learn to play well with others at preschool age generally have better mental health as they get older.

Based on data collected from Australian children, the findings provide “the first clear evidence that peer play, the ability to play successfully with other children, has a protective effect on mental health”.

It is a good and optimistic study, especially regarding from poorer and more difficult social institutions, and we will come backreturnhat school teachers say

The reality is that school teachers already know this to be true. And COVID-19 lockdowns have underscored that reality.

Young children need social skills for better mental health

Teachers in Australia and abroad are dealing with the impact of young children entering school this year or last, many of whom have spent much of 2020 and 2021 in lockdown.

According to a report last week in The Sector, a news outlet for early childhood education and care (ECEC): “Teachers of children who have gone to school this year have noted the impact of COVID-19-related lockdowns on people’s social skills. Children, observing children who have not been in preschool education and care experience difficulties.”

The Sector cites a Herald Sun story quoting a Melbourne primary school teacher: “It takes longer to teach them these basic skills. We’ve lowered our expectations of these kids with more ‘brain breaks’.”

Also quoted was Professor Louise Paatsch of Deakin University’s School of Education, who said preliminary research found that students do not know how to interpret their peers’ behavior or cooperate during group work.

None of this will come as a surprise to parents of children in Prep of Year 1. The COVID generation is taking a while to settle in.

The story is the same abroad.

In a US survey of educators conducted by the EdWeek Research Center in January:

39 percent of teachers said that “compared to pre-pandemic 2019, the social skills and emotional maturity levels” of their current students are “much less advanced” 41 percent said their students were “slightly less advanced” in those areas, and 16 percent said they were “about the same” as their pre-pandemic peers.

The new study

What we hear about from teachers are some of the consequences of young children missing out on social skills.

On a positive note, the University of Cambridge research describes the benefits when children are successfully socialized.

The researchers used data from 1,676 children in the Growing Up in Australia study, which tracks the development of children born in Australia between March 2003 and February 2004.

The data was collected when the children were three and seven years old.

The researchers found:

Those who were better at playing with peers at age three consistently showed fewer signs of poor mental health four years later. This association was generally true, even when the researchers focused on subgroups of children at particular risk for mental health problems. Experienced severe psychological distress during or immediately after pregnancy.

The findings suggest that “giving young children who may be vulnerable to mental health problems access to well-supported opportunities to play with peers — for example, in preschools run by early childhood specialists — could be a way to improve their mental health.” significantly improve long-term health.

Dr. Jenny Gibson of the Play in Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL) Center at the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education said: “We think this connection exists because children acquire the skills to build strong friendships through playing with others. as they get older and go to school, even if they are at risk of poor mental health, those friendship networks will often get them through it.

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