Social values and preschool behavioral adjustment: A comparative investigation of Latino and European American preschool children.


The present article explored relationships between social values (cooperative, individualistic, and competitive) and the behavioral adjustment of Latino and European American preschoolers within the preschool setting. Of interest was whether relationships between social values and behavioral adjustment differed as a function of cultural background. Assessments of social values and teacher reports of child behavioral adjustment were obtained for 254 preschoolers from collectivist (Spanish-speaking Latino Americans), individualist (English-speaking European Americans), and mixed cultural backgrounds (English-Speaking Latino Americans). Cooperative values were more prevalent among collectivist background children, but did not predict behavioral adjustment. Individualistic values did not differ across groups, but predicted better behavioral adjustment for individualist children. Competitive values did not differ across groups, but predicted positive behavioral adjustment for collectivist children and negative behavioral adjustment for individualist children. These findings suggest that a competitive social orientation constitutes a resilience factor for children from collectivist cultural backgrounds and a risk factor for children from individualist cultural backgrounds, and that a cooperative social orientation is undervalued within school settings. Discussion focuses on facilitating the behavioral adjustment of children by raising teacher awareness of collectivist social values and, selectively, fostering or encouraging competitive social values. In sum, the results support the notion that the functionality and meaning of social values differ across social and cultural contexts.