Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Child Development and Family Relations


Child Development and Family Relations

First Advisor

George Fitzelle


With the increasing awareness in this country of a disadvantaged segment of the population, attention is focused upon determinants of this situation. Congruent with a number of theories in child development, it has been shown that early experiences of the individual have an important influence on the formation of personality. This study is concerned with the observation of some of the effects of early experiences through a comparison of advantaged and disadvantaged pre-school children in a school situation.

It is hypothesized that because of a lesser amount of basic trust on the part of disadvantaged children, the amount and kind of interaction the disadvantaged child seeks with the teacher differs from that of the child in the advantaged group. The second hypothesis states that disadvantaged children will display an earlier developmental level of play than advantaged children because their total life experience has lacked the environmental elements to support a normal progression through the developmental stages.

The methods used in the development of these hypotheses consisted of the observation and tabulation of the frequency of looking, speaking, and touching sought by the child toward the teacher or aides, as well as an evaluation of developmental level of play. This was recorded for a total of eight observations of two-minute intervals each. During the first minute the frequency of looking and an evaluation of play level was made. In the second minute the frequency of speaking to the teacher and of touching the teacher was recorded as well as an evaluation of the level of play.

The sample for the study consisted of children, matched for age and sex, and attending nursery schools in which both advantaged and disadvantaged children were present. The criteria for the determination of advantaged or disadvantaged were those used by the Office of Economic Opportunity for admission to Headstart programs.

Following a statistical analysis using the t-test and the Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test, the results obtained indicate that there are some differences between advantaged and disadvantaged children. The degree of bias caused by the unequal length of attendance of the tv.u groups at nursery school is difficult to evaluate. However, disadvantaged children sought the teacher or other adults by touching a significantly greater number of times than did advantaged children. Seeking behavior to adults by speaking and looking occurred equally for both groups. It is concluded that this markedly greater seeking behavior by touching may indicate an affectional deprivation early in the life of disadvantaged children. Basic trust is seen to be present to a lesser degree. The developmental level of play tended to be lower for disadvantaged children than for advantaged children. The results are congruent with the hypothesis, and the interpretation placed upon this relates the results to lack of simulation by a variety of environmental stimuli in the homes of disadvantaged children, as well as to the influence of lesser amounts of basic trust.



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