Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Susan Benner

Committee Members

Amos Hatch, Larry Coleman


This study looks at naturally existing friendships among preschool-aged children with and without disabilities in inclusive settings. The study is a naturalistic study. Datawere collected through participant observations and interviews. Field notes were taken during observations and recorded in a field journal. Interviews were audio taped and transcribed. Analysis of the field notes and interview transcripts was inductive. Analysisinvolved organizing and categorizing information into units of meaning and searching for themes. Analysis uncovered descriptions, meanings, and revealed various perspectives regarding the friendships studied including those of the children, parents, and teachers.The study describes six friendships among children with and without disabilities that developed without an intervention plan. The inclusive environments provided the opportunity for the children to meet one another and interaction among the children to occur. The teachers, parents, researcher, and the children themselves recognized the relationships as friendships. The friendships are described as typical and portray characteristics that are common among friendships during the preschool age period. The Friendships were dynamic and changed throughout the course of the study. Of the friendships studied, four remained intact throughout the course of the study and two of the friendships dissolved. In the relationships that dissolved, variance in developmental levels affected the dissolution of the relationships. Several factors influenced the formation of the friendships including similarity in play styles, the opportunity to engage in similar activities, similar knowledge and interests, proximity, and parental factors

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