Social niche and social competence

Principal Investigator

António José dos Santos


João Daniel




Our aim is to study peer relations in child social development. We argue that;

  • social development can best be understood by distinguishing among the contributing characteristics of (a) the individual; (b) the interactions between individuals; and (c) the relationships formed and maintained by individuals, in part as a function of their individual characteristics and the nature of their social interactions (Hinde, 1987). 
  • social competence is  the central organizing construct of early childhood, summarizing children’s capacity to recruit personal and interpersonal resources in the service of achieving their goals in social groups, while maintaining a good developmental trajectory. 
  • friendship and peer group affiliative networks, in the promotion of optimal developmental trajectories.


Our current research aim

  • to provide both descriptive and quasi-experimental data concerning antecedents to, correlates of, and outcomes associated with participation in a range of friendships in a large sample of preschool-age children.
  • to describe the relevance of different local social processes on the creation of affiliative networks of preschool groups, using exponential random graph models complementing the traditional descriptive analysis of preschool children’s social networks.
  • to provide developmental data documenting predictive relations between affective expressiveness and adaptive behavior, personality, and social and academic success in preschool.
  • to investigate developmental trajectories of socially withdrawn and control adolescents from 7th to 9th grade, with particular focus on the roles of significant relationships in modifying or reinforcing these trajectories.