Normative and emotional responses in a peer conflict paradigm : a developmental study on 3- and 5- year old Turkish children

Köksal, Özgün
The purpose of the study is to investigate the development of normative understanding and its relation to emotional states. Two samples of late 3- and 5-year-old Turkish pre-school children were studied. We adopted a peer conflict paradigm in which we taught two children conflicting rules for playing a game and asked them to play the game together, later (incompatible condition). Since children had learned different rules we expected them to protest when their partners played the game with a different rule. Results revealed that both 3- and 5-year-old children were competent at understanding the normative force of the rules. Yet, they did this in a context-sensitive manner. While they protested their partner in the incompatible condition, they did not protest when their partner performed the same action in a different game context where both rules had been taught to children as two alternative ways of playing (compatible condition). Moreover, we investigated children’s emotional states – especially annoyance and anger – throughout their interactions. We found a different pattern between 3- and 5-year-olds: 3-year-olds were more annoyed and angry in the incompatible condition than compatible condition. On the other hand, 5-year-olds’ emotional state of being annoyed/angry was not found to be different in the compatible and incompatible condition. Summing up the evidence from normative and emotional responses, even though 5-year-olds protested significantly more in the incompatible than compatible condition, they were not more ‘annoyed and angry’. Furthermore, to investigate the possible related mechanisms of normative understanding, we conducted theory of mind and executive functioning tests and collected temperamental and emotion regulation characteristics by questionnaires completed by mothers. Yet, none of these variables were found to be related with normative responses of children when age was factored out in a linear regression model.