Links between local language competence and peer relations among Swiss and immigrant children : The mediating role of social behaviour
The primary aim of this investigation was to evaluate a model in which children's social behaviors, including prosocial behavior, setting limits, and social withdrawal, were hypothesized to mediate the links between local language competence (LLC) and peer acceptance and victimization. Longitudinal data were collected via teacher and peer reports on 541 (286 boys and 255 girls) immigrant and Swiss native 5-to-6 year-old kindergarteners. Results showed the immigrant children were less fluent in the local language compared to native Swiss classmates. Moreover, results from structural equation models, with bootstrap tests of indirect effects, indicated that social behaviors mediated the link between LLC and the quality of children's peer relationships. Implications of these findings for school professionals are discussed, such as the need to help immigrant children make a smoother transition to their host communities by providing additional language and social supports while children acculturate and acclimate to their new surroundings and peer group.