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Title:Children's Understanding of Peer Behavior: Variations as a Function of Affect, Age, Social Status and Sex of Perceiver
Author(s):Hymel, Shelley Claire
Department / Program:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Psychology, Social
Abstract:Research on social isolation and rejection in children has focused almost exclusively on the behaviors and characteristics of the target child which influence peer acceptance. However, peer perceptions of behavior may also contribute to the stability of peer rejection. The present study focused primarily on developmental changes in children's perceptions of the social behavior of liked versus disliked peers. Specifically, variations in children's explanations of peer behavior were examined in terms of both perceiver characteristics (age, sex, and social status) and situational characteristics (affect toward peer and valence of behavior). Children responded to hypothetical situations in which known peers who were liked or disliked by the perceiver performed behaviors which were positive or negative for the perceiver. Children were asked to explain why the described behavior occurred and to evaluate how much they would like to be with that peer if the behavior had occurred.
Results indicated that explanations of peer behavior varied with age, affect and the valence of the behavior described. Interestingly, age differences occurred primarily in inconsistent or "imbalanced" situations involving liked rather than disliked peers. For example, as children got older, they were more likely to attribute negative behaviors performed by liked peers to external causes, and to either deny that the behavior would occur, or reinterpret the behavior in such a way as to maintain consistency between their feelings toward the actor and the valence of the behavior described. Such patterns were less evident for situations in which disliked peers performed positive behaviors. Sex differences in interpretations of peer behavior were found with females being more likely to explain inconsistent behavior in terms of changes in the actor-subject relationship and males being more likely to deny the behavior would occur or reinterpret the behavior such that attitude toward the actor and valence of behavior remained consistent. Social status of perceiver had virtually no effect on interpretations of peer behavior.
Results are discussed in terms of theories of interpersonal attraction in adults and the development of person perception in children. Implications for intervention work with socially rejected children are considered.
Issue Date:1982
Description:286 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1982.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8209590
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-15
Date Deposited:1982

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