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.
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