Title: Peacemaking in Young Children
Name: Peter Verbeek
Miyazaki International College
1405 Kano, Kiyotake--cho
Miyazaki, 889-1605
Year: 1996
Type: Dissertation Fellowship

The causes of conflict among preschool children are well known. Much less is known about how preschool children act to protect the integrity of peer relations in the wake of conflict. Building on peace research on children and nonhuman primates, this observational research demonstrates two complementary aspects of peacemaking among groups of American preschoolers: peaceful associative outcomes to conflict ("together outcomes") and peaceful reunions between former opponents following a brief separation ("post-conflict reconciliation").

The contexts in which conflicts occurred (inside classrooms and outside playgrounds) affected peacemaking, and so did the relationship of the opponents (friends vs. nonfriends). Friends were about equally likely to make peace inside classrooms and at outside playgrounds. In contrast, when children had a greater opportunity to break off social interaction (at outside playgrounds), nonfriends were significantly less likely to stay together after conflict than they were inside classrooms, where there was less of an opportunity to disperse from a former opponent. A strong desire to spend together may thus have motivated friends in our study to stay together after conflict, irrespective of whether their conflict occurred in classrooms or on playgrounds. Nonfriends, in comparison, apparently were more concerned about preserving harmonious relations while playing inside crowded classrooms than while playing at (significantly less crowded) playgrounds.

Other factors, such as the use of conciliatory behavior or aggression by opponents and the sex of opponents, were found to be associated with immediate and delayed peacemaking. The use of aggression significantly decreased the likelihood of peacemaking, while the use of conciliatory behavior such as apologies, embraces, or object sharing, significantly increased it. Same sex children were more likely to make peace than opponents of opposite sex, reflecting patterns of same sex play and friendship that are common among children of this age. One of the single most important predictors of peacemaking was preconflict interaction between the opponents, illustrating the children's apparent concern with the continuity and integrity of the social interactions with peers.

Bibliography: Verbeek, P., & de Waal, F. B. M. (2001). Peacemaking among preschool children. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 7(1), 5-28.
Butovskaya, M., Verbeek, P., Ljungberg, T. & Lunardini, A. (2000). A multi-cultural view of peacemaking among young children. In F. Aureli & F. B. M. de Waal (Eds.), Natural Conflict Resolution. Berkeley: University of California Press.