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Giada Cordoni, Elisa Demuru, Enrico Ceccarelli and Elisabetta Palagi

Play provides children with the opportunity to train in fundamental social skills, including conflict management. Here, we evaluate the management of play, aggressive conflict and reconciliation in 3- to 5-year-old preschool children. 3-year-old children show the highest levels of aggressive conflicts in free play, and do not reconcile their aggressive conflicts in the first months of the preschool year because they still lack social capacities to successfully manage interactions with peers. We found no gender bias in being aggressors or victims, but gender-typed traits were reflected in the expression of aggressiveness in same-sex peers for boys, who rely more on physical contacts than girls. Gender segregation in play is seen only in boys, regardless of age. Our results emphasize the importance of considering play, aggressive conflicts, and reconciliation as a whole, in order to obtain a comprehensive overview of the development of pre- and post-conflict dynamics in humans.