Peer Relations and Social Competence of Preschool-age Healthy and Food-allergic Children


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Peers provide children with a unique environment to develop social competence. Previous research suggests that restricted peer contact is associated with poor social and emotional outcomes. Children with food allergy may experience heightened risk for restrictions in peer contact due to avoidance of allergens. This study examined the relations between children'saccess to peers outside of school and social competence in a sample of healthy and food-allergic children. Eighty-two mothers and teachers of children ages 3-6 participated. Thirty-two children had a food allergy diagnosis. Mothers reported their child'speer contact frequency, peer network size, and mothers and teachers reported children'ssocial competence. Social competence was not statistically significantly related to children'speer contact frequency or peer network size outside of school. No significant differences were detected between food-allergic and healthy children. Further research should examine the longitudinal impact of peers both within and beyond school settings on social competence.