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• Children interact more often with peers of similar learning-related behaviors.
• Children interact more often with peers of similar language and literacy skills.
• Learning-related behaviors mediate problem behaviors and peer interaction.
Peer interaction contributes strongly to children’s development and learning, but the processes by which peer interaction is shaped in preschool classrooms, particularly classrooms in rural communities, are largely unknown. This study aimed to examine the patterns of peer interaction in rural preschool classrooms as a way to extrapolate how children influence each other in their day-to-day social interaction. Included in this study were 270 preschoolers (Mean age = 53 months, SD = 3.2) from 61 preschool classrooms located in rural communities that primarily served children from low-income families. Results of actor-partner interdependence models demonstrate significant homophily effects of children’s learning-related behaviors and language and literacy skills, after accounting for gender and problem behavior homophily. The similarity of learning-related behaviors between a dyad mediated the relationship between their problem behaviors and the frequency of peer interaction. Children’s language and literacy skills were similar to the skills of their peers with whom they interacted more often toward the end of the academic year. These findings have implications for understanding and improving peer interaction in rural preschool classrooms.
Journal: Early Childhood Research Quarterly - Volume 37, 4th Quarter 2016, Pages 106–117