Group Identity as a Prognostic Factor of Mental Health in Preschool Children
Keywords:group identity, preschoolers, preschool institution, mental health, loneliness
Introduction. Victim stance of an individual may arise due to negative social relationships (Chojnacka, 2020) and may be associated with the experience of loneliness (Barbaro, 1999); lack of close friends and rejection by peers; lack of play partner and negative relationships in childhood (Chase, 1999). However, studies investigating the peculiarities of group identity development and the problem of loneliness in preschool children are insufficiently presented in the modern scientific literature. In this article, the phenomenon of victimhood, the experience of acceptance or rejection by a group of peers are considered in the context of preschooler’s mental health genesis.
Purpose. The aim of the study is to determine the features of group identity development in preschool children in kindergartens based on the examples of children and the memories of adults.
Materials and methods: an anonymous survey with open-ended and closed-ended questions was used (n = 247). The participants of the survey were parents of preschoolers attending modern preschool educational institutions (n = 140) and respondents who attended kindergarten as children (n = 107, aged 12 to 55). They were asked to evaluate the organization of groups in kindergarten; the features of interpersonal interaction of children; meeting the needs of children in child-care facilities; the main functions of the kindergarten and their level of trust in educators.
Results: Kindergarten is a second important environment where a child continues to develop his group identity and ego-identity, and not just a place where children stay when parents are at work. Children who have difficulty interacting with their peers often face aggression from peers, experience feelings of loneliness, but not always receive help from their teachers. The majority of respondents (75.7%) answered that the experience of communication in kindergarten influenced their emotional state, self-esteem and communicative competence at school.
Conclusions: The peculiarities of children's group identity in the preschool period are experiences of interest in interaction with a certain group of peers, the desire to be accepted and at the same time hostility towards or lack of interest in other peers. A significant percentage of experienced loneliness among modern children (35.5%) and adults (27.1%) who attended kindergarten more than 30 years ago indicates that this problem has existed for decades and requires more attention from scientists. Absence of play partners and frequent conflicts with peers lead to low self-esteem, fear of communication with children, other toxic experience and, as a consequence, to the risks of victimization in the future
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