Thank you for posting your thoughtful comments and the interesting links! I couldn't agree more about the importance of unstructured play for helping children learn about getting along.

Let me throw out one other factor that I think is interfering nowadays with children's development of social skills: our narcissistic culture's emphasis on performance and seeking admiration.

Trying to be impressive creates distance not connection.

I'm not saying performance doesn't matter--of course it does--but it's only one facet of a well-lived life, and it's not relevant for close relationships. Fans aren't friends. Constantly wondering, "How am I doing?" can prevent kids (and adults) from asking, "How are you?"