Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Mogharreban, Cathy


An intrinsic case study (Stake, 1995) was implemented to analyze data on social groups. In particular, naturally occurring social interactions were observed to decipher how cliques and hierarchies were displayed among groups of young children aged three to six. Participants were 16 pre-kindergarten children, four core staff members, three student teachers, and nine student workers or practicum students in a laboratory classroom setting. The fieldwork transpired over 28 visits, totaling approximately 93 hours, at a campus childcare facility referred to as The Center. Data collection consisted of observation, time samples, and semi-structured interviews. Distinct characteristics of this study included the uniqueness of the setting and the areas of data collection within the classroom. The researcher documented every 30 minutes where the children were located as well as with whom they were playing. The time samples resulted in 307 single interactions, 273 dyadic interactions, 131 triadic interactions, 58 quad interactions, and 60 interactions with five or more children which calculated to 829 total interactions documented in 182 time samples. The form and function of each relationship identified was explored through the use of observational field notes and semi-structured interviews with the children. In addition, supplemental perspectives from the core staff member interviews were included. Three sets of children had notably more dyadic interactions captured in the time samples. One triadic set of children had considerably more interactions captured and another set, although not as evident in the time samples, was identified by the core staff members. The researcher explored the relationships identified to determine the consistency within the roles, the impact of gender, and manner in which power was established. One small scale hierarchy transformed into an established hierarchy as two children floated in and out of the clique or when other children attempted to enter their play. Close examination of the functioning of this hierarchy led to the emergent themes of The Power of Exclusiveness and The Power of Exclusion. Suggestions for future research and implications for practice are detailed.




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