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Abstract

Studying short-term dynamic processes and change mechanisms in interaction yields important knowledge that contributes to understanding long-term social development of children. In order to get a grip on this short-term dynamics of interaction processes, the authors made a dynamic systems model of dyadic interaction of children during one play session. The control parameters of the model relate to children's goal-directedness, concerns, emotional appraisals, social power, and social competence. Three groups of dyads of different sociometric statuses are represented by specific control parameter values. The model's order parameters consist of children's emotional expressions and other- versus self-directed actions. This article describes the empirical validation of the model and the methods needed for such validation. It focuses on the model's predictions of averages and distributions of the major variables, of the occurrence of attractors and power law distributions, and on the model's sensitivity. Overall, the model fits the empirical data well. In the discussion, we reflect on the developmental and methodological implications for explaining social interaction on the short-term as well as on the long-term time scale. In addition, implications for intervention and assessment are presented, in particular relating to the problem of rejection.