Chapter 11: Peer Status
The ways in which students are accepted or rejected by their social group is referred to as peer status. The text describes five categories in which students may fit based on the perceptions of their peers. Students may be classified as popular, rejected, neglected, controversial, or average (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). The term popular, however, is not necessarily synonymous with being well liked. When teachers or students are asked who popular students are in the classroom, they may refer to students who are controversial or rejected students, students who are “bully-leaders” or students who are “tough/popular.” Peer status for many students remains stable, meaning students who are popular are likely to remain popular and students who are rejected are likely to continue to be rejected from kindergarten through high school (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).
Rejection may cause aggression in students, as well as disruptive classroom behavior, hyperactivity and distractibility, and lead to delinquency. Students exhibiting these behaviors will often face more rejection, continuing the cycle. However, students who showed aggression, but were categorized as having average peer status were more to exhibit social adjustment, similar to their nonaggressive peers (Dubow, 1988). Because of this, it is important when working with aggressive children to understand their peer status, in order to better provide intervention targeting the social skills these children lack (Dubrow, 1988). In addition to aggression, rejected students often have lower GPA, IQ, and test scores than peers who are accepted within the classroom setting (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). In a sample of 901 students transitioning from grade school to middle school and through eighth grade, peer status and GPA were studied. The study revealed that peer rejection in fourth grade through middle school was associated with lower GPA’s and lower GPA’s predicted greater peer rejection from grade school into middle school (Bellmore, 2011). Similar to aggression, academic achievement (GPA) and rejection have the ability to go hand-in-hand, creating a vicious cycle without intervention.
Peer acceptance or rejection is usually a result of students’ social skills or lack thereof. Students exhibiting prosocial behaviors are often well-liked and accepted by peers. Conversely, students who are often withdrawn from the group will tend to be rejected from the group (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). Parenting influences and SES also have an influence on peer status. Parental negativity, abuse, marital conflict, and divorce are all risk factors of peer rejection. In addition, parents have an influence over their child’s peer status in that they, to some extent, select the child’s “peer world” through their choice in neighborhoods, daycare and community activity and involvement (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).
How then, do we as educators help to break the vicious cycle of rejection and provide intervention for our students who lack peer acceptance when we cannot control external factors, such as parental influence or socioeconomic status? The text lists six steps for helping students improve peer relationships by focusing on behavior within the classroom(Bergin & Bergin, 2012):
-Help the student reduce aggression and increase prosocial behavior.
-Help the student better regulate emotions.
-Promote the student’s academic skills.
-Capitalize on student strengths.
-Pair the student up with a buddy.
-Arrange for the student to work or play with younger students.
In a study done consisting of 24 middle school teachers and their middleschool students, intervention strategies were introduced, consisting of cooperative, teamwork-based group activities for, both, academic instruction and non-academic activities. The purpose of the cooperative learning activities was to promote a socially accepting environment and reduce peer rejection. Through self-reporting from the this study, it was found that The results of this study indicate that interventions intended to change, both, the perception of peers, as well as the classroom climate may be effective in discouraging rejection among peers (Mikami A.Y., Boucher M.A., & Humphreys, K., 2005)
- In your classroom experiences, have you seen the five categories of peer status mentioned in the text, and what effects (positive or negative) have these categories of students had on your classroom environment?
- What social skill intervention strategies have you used in your classroom to help students who are perceived as rejected or neglected?
- Do you use opportunities for Cooperative Learning, and if so, what positive influences do these opportunities have on peer relationships in the classroom?
- Do you feel peer status has a greater effect on students at certain grade levels? If so, what grade levels are students most affected by peer status, and why do you feel this way?
- Bergin, C.C. & Bergin, D.A. (2012). Child and Adolescent Development in Your Classroom. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
- Dubow, E. (1988). Aggressive Behavior and Peer Social Status of Elementary School Children. Aggressive Behavior, 14(5), 315-324.
- Bellmore, A (2011). Peer Rejections and Unpopularity: Associated with GPA’s Across Transition to Middle School. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103(2), 282-295.
- Mikami, A.Y., Boucher, M.A., & Humphreys, K. (2005). Prevention of Peer Rejection Through a Classroom-Level Intervention in Middle School. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 26(1), 5-23.