A longitudinal study, conducted over a five-year period following 380 students from age 5-years old to 11-years old, found that children who are rejected by their peers have more trouble engaging in school activities than children who are not rejected by their peers. This kind of rejection can increase the likelihood that children are victimized or excluded by peers and impair a child's ability to interact with other children, participate in classroom activities and participate in the social context of the classroom. It can result in long-term maladjustment that may endure throughout a child's school years.
Despite the recent emphasis that has been placed on bullying and victimization in school children," exclusion, although not as visible as verbal or physical forms of abuse, may be particularly detrimental to children's participation in many school activities," said lead author Eric Buhs, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska. Relative to other types of peer relationships, peer group rejection appeared to be one of the strongest predictors of a child's likely or unlikely success in academics. Those children who suffered rejection were more likely to avoid school and were less engaged in the classroom setting." Once children experience this kind of maltreatment or rejection from their peers, they avoid most classroom peer activities," added Dr. Buhs.
"Children become less active participants in classroom activities because their opportunities to do so are increasingly restricted as a result of peer exclusion. Children who are harassed (picked on or teased) or excluded from activities by peers tend to try to avoid classrooms (and school) as a means of escaping further abuse," said Buhs.
While conventional wisdom tells us that socially withdrawn children tend to be victimized and/or excluded by peers, this study found that rejection more strongly and consistently predicted peer abuse and exclusion. The research findings also showed that students who were rejected may begin devaluing peer interaction activities and avoiding peer and classroom activities.
The findings from this research are consistent with the premise that peer abuse and peer exclusion function as distinct forms of peer maltreatment that have unique effects on children's engagement and adjustment patterns. This study raises the issue that physical or verbal bullying is not the only harmful form of peer maltreatment. While the study did not test specific interventions, the results indicate that future researchers may want to closely examine the role of peer exclusion and explore possible ways of countering the negative effects of this form of peer maltreatment.
Article: "Peer Exclusion and Victimization: Processes That Mediate the Relation Between Peer Group Rejection and Children's Classroom Engagement and Achievement," Eric Buhs, University of Nebraska; Gary Ladd and Sarah Herald, Arizona State University; Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol.98 No.1
Eric Buhs can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (402) 472-6948.
Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/edu9811.pdf
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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