Differences in communication, goals and self-efficacy, social anxiety, and self-perception for non-aggressive rejected and popular children



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Peer collaboration has become a common ground for examining how children communicate and exchange information when working with a partner, and research has shown a general trend of improvement in cognitive coordination and performance during collaborative tasks (Bell, 2001; Doise, Mugny, & Perret-Clermont, 1975; Hartup, 1978; Ladd, 1981; Reynolds & Fireman, 1998; Yeates, Shultz, & Selman, 1991). Social status in childhood has also become a major focus in predicting social adjustment among peers, as research has shown that negative peer status in childhood is predictive of later manifestations of emotional problems, maladaptive behavior, and risk for academic failure in adolescence and adulthood (Coie, Dodge, & Kupersmidt, 1990; Coie, Lochman, Terry, & Hyman, 1992; Cowen, Pederson, Babigian, Izzo, & Trost, 1973; French & Conrad, 2001; Hoza, Molina, Bukowkski, & Sippola, 1995; Kupersmidt, 1983; Parker & Asher, 1987; Roff, Sells, & Golden, 1972). This study examined the social context of peer collaboration and communication when children in a negative peer status group, who were considered rejected and non-aggressive by their peers, were paired with children who were viewed as being popular by their peers. In addition, this study investigated individual differences within these two groups regarding the goals children had when solving a social conflict problem, feelings of self-efficacy in being able to solve the problem, levels of social anxiety, different types of self-perception, and the emotions experienced when they worked with a partner.

Eighty 5th and 6th grade boys and girls were identified through peer nominations as either non-aggressive rejected or popular. Children worked in non-aggressive rejected/popular dyads or popular/popular dyads to complete a story-writing task together, and also answered several questionnaires individually. Results indicated few differences between the two social status groups on aspects of communication when working together on a task. However, non-aggressive rejected children reported substantially higher levels of social anxiety and lower levels of self-perception than popular children. There may have been other differences between the two groups of children, regarding goals and self-efficacy and the emotional experience of working with a partner, which would have been found to be statistically significant if the sample size in this study had been larger. Because of the negative long-term outcomes related to the rejected status, future research in this area is strongly encouraged in order to expand the knowledge and treatment of rejected children, particularly those who are not aggressive.