Social relationships in children: Favourable influence of activities promoting self-awareness and empathic interaction
CARRO, NATALIA; KUPERMAN, MARCELO; D'ADAMO, PAOLA; LOZADA, MARIANA
Journal of Complex Networks
Oxford University Press
Lugar: Oxford; Año: 2022 vol. 10
Embodied and intersubjective experience is crucial to the social cognition processes on which interpersonal relationships are based. We assessed whether promoting these processes through participation in self-awareness and empathic interaction activities can influence social integration among peers in 7- to 8-year-old children. The intervention, conducted in a school context, included mindfulness-based practices (favouring self-awareness), empathic collaboration activities and perspective-taking instances (promoting other-oriented awareness). To evaluate social integration levels, children were asked to complete a sociometric questionnaire, each listing the peers they would choose to play with (positive ties) and those they would prefer not to play with (negative ties). Based on this relational data, two types of directed networks were constructed: positive networks (PN) and negative networks (NN), in two temporal instances (pre- and post-intervention). In both the experimental and waitlist groups, pre-post intervention changes in the topology of peer social networks were evaluated by analysing global network properties such as connectivity, degree distribution, density, reciprocity, transitivity and modular structure. Our findings showed that after participating in the intervention social integration was improved, reflected in increased general interconnection of positive ties: greater average connectivity and density in PN, more equitably distributed choices (no evident leadership), greater cohesion and an increase in the number of reciprocal interactions. Additionally, we found a lower level of social rejection; that is, lower average connectivity and density in NN, the persistence of only mutual negative choices and negative ties confined to small groups. These findings were not observed in the waitlist group. This study demonstrates how participation in an intervention that promotes social cognition processes can influence the structure of peer social networks, favouring social integration. The social network analysis provides quantitative evidence of the plasticity of social relationships in children, constituting a valuable tool for the assessment of this kind of intervention at a group level.