Peer conflicts of preschool children: Issues, resolution, incidence, and age-related patterns

Dora W. Chen*, Greta G. Fein, Hak Ping Tam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined 2-, 3-, and 4-year-olds’ peer conflicts in the naturalistic classroom setting during free-play time. 400 preschoolers from 25 classrooms were videotaped. Only the first conflict event generated by each target-child observation was included in the analysis. Of the 400 target-child observations, 322 generated a conflict event. In general, there was a shift in the issues of conflict from tangible material concerns to those that were more mental and social. 2-year-olds had a higher proportion of distribution of resources conflicts than did 3- and 4-year-olds. Conflicts about play and ideas significantly increased with age while those stemming from physical harm were low overall. Further, child-generated resolutions increased while insistence decreased significantly with age. What changes with development appears to be the issues of conflict and the way they are handled; not the incidence of conflict per se. These findings support the proposal that conflicts are natural contexts in which children develop socially, morally and cognitively. Implications for teaching are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-544
Number of pages22
JournalEarly Education and Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001 Oct

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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