Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Effects of Body-Oriented Interventions on Preschoolers’ Social-emotional Competence: A systematic review” by Dias Rodrigues, A.; Cruz-Ferreira, A.; Marmeleira, J. and Veiga, G. (2022), in which authors carry out a revision of previous literature about body-oriented interventions with kids in kindergarten, to know if these interventions improve their socio-emotional skills.

 Early childhood is a fundamental period of life. In it there is a very significant development of socio-emotional skills, which are a very important basis for the health, well-being and success of children. These competencies are also crucial for children to deal with current and future stressors and challenges.

When we talk about socioemotional competencies, we refer to social (ability to solve problems, adjust behavior according to the social situation, etc.) and emotional competencies (understanding, regulation, and expression of emotions) that work together towards adaptive development.

These socio-emotional competencies are developed from very early ages through the process of socialization of emotions, that is, through the modeling, observation, and communication of emotions.

In the past few decades, several intervention programs have been implemented in educational contexts with the aim of promoting the development of socio-emotional skills in children.

One of these types of interventions are those oriented to the body, which are of particular interest to us, because it is assumed that bodily and emotional experiences are associated with each other and related to psychomotricity, play, dance, physical activity or relaxation. That is: nonverbal elements.

All this would serve to be aware of the body, of the body in relation to others and the connection between it and emotions.

A strong body of evidence supports the effectiveness of these interventions in the educational context. That is why the research investigates this specific context.

The objective is to know if there is, indeed, an improvement in socio-emotional skills with these interventions focused on the body that use non-verbal elements of communication.

The process was as follows: a series of articles were chosen, compiled from various databases, published between 2000 and 2020. The study participants had to be children between 3 and 7 years old and they had to attend preschool education. In addition, the study had to use body-oriented interventions for at least one week and necessarily in the context of school.

To date, this is the first systematic review to learn about the effects of body-oriented exposures in educational contexts on the socioemotional competencies of preschool children.

Despite the difficulty in identifying the ideal intervention “dose,” the emerging consensus among researchers is that children who received more sessions demonstrated greater outcomes. However, according to the analysis carried out, there is not enough evidence to support this idea.

Some of the assessment instruments used in the included studies were self-reports by parents and teachers. The use of parent reports is based on the idea of the children that parents see, and their knowledge of the child in various contexts, therefore they can observe them in very different situations. However, they may be carried away by the urge to create a positive image of their children and thus their opinion may be biased.

There was limited evidence of the positive effects of this type of interventions on emotion recognition, emotional regulation strategies, and social cooperation and independence. However, authors do consider that the bodily and emotional experiences displayed by them possibly facilitate the recognition and regulation of emotions.

These skills are essential for social interactions and are predictors of cooperative social behaviors.

There was also evidence, although limited, that these interruptions improved game interaction and skill, behavior problems, and hyperactivity.

Future research should not omit important data, as occurred in some of those analyzed, on, for example, eligibility criteria.

Authors point out the need to know exactly what type of body-oriented intervention is most useful for the development of socio-emotional skills in children of these ages and mark it as one of the main objectives of future studies.

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