Title: Peer Exclusion and Victimization: Processes That Mediate the Relation Between Peer Group Rejection and Children’s Classroom Engagement and Achievement?
Eric S. Buhs
Gary W. Ladd
and Sarah L. Herald
The thought that peer exclusion is correlated with children’s classroom achievements and adjustment has been hypothesized since the 1930’s. Much research and empirical evidence for such hypotheses have since been collected, and seem to agree with the premise of the correlation. Peer acceptance is the main measurement of this study. In contrast with other types of peer relationships, peer group acceptance, or rejection, is strongly connected with academic readiness and achievement. This article focuses on peer sentiments and its effect on children’s adjustment. It differs from past studies in that its approach is to measure non-observable feelings about classmates, rather than only the observable interactions. The article begins by outlining past research, and developing a premise for the study from those previous studies. The main study that this research builds upon is that of a 2001 study by Eric S. Buhs and Gary W. Ladd, who also conduct this study along with Sarah L. Herald. The premise of the study, based on the 2001 study, is that once classmates express negative feelings and actions upon a peer, those feelings and actions act as a visible marker for further rejection by the larger peer group, and the rejected child as well; as a result, the rejected peers are flagged by their peers, and are left out of classroom interactions, and as a consequence, the rejected child’s learning is impacted ultimately leading to lower levels of achievement (Buhs, Ladd, and Herald, 2006, p.2). The prior 2001 study found that “early peer rejection was negatively related to later achievement and that this association was partially mediated through peer maltreatment and declining classroom participation, respectively” (Buhs et al., 2006, p. 2). The authors developed a hypothesis that built upon their previous study. Their hypothesis was stated as, “it was hypothesized that prolonged peer maltreatment increases the probability that children will disengage from classrooms (or the school context) and that increasing disengagement impairs children’s achievement. Thus, it was predicted that longer rather than shorter histories of peer maltreatment, after controlling for contemporary exclusion or abuse, would mediate the link between early peer rejection and later classroom disengagement” (Buhs et al., 2006, p. 3). The authors further state that their purpose for conducting this study was to bridge the gap between the limitations of the previous study (it was only a one year study that attempted to predict students future outcomes) by conducting a more comprehensive longitudinal study over a six year period (kindergarten through fifth grade). Methodology
The research study constructed six variables to measure the children with. They include, peer group acceptance/rejection, peer exclusion, peer abuse, classroom participation, school avoidance, and achievement. Peer group acceptance/rejection was conceptualized to mean “the extent to which individuals were liked/ disliked by classroom peers,” and operationalized by sociometric ratings that were collected from peers during kindergarten. One problem with this operationalization is the ability to comprehensively scale the true feelings of one peer toward another, especially during younger years. Scales, questionnaires, and observations might be too incomplete to capture the true meaning behind the dynamics of peer to peer interactions. Another issue is of how to evaluate separate peer groups. Many times classrooms encompass only a selection of developed peer groupings throughout the grade, and might be unfairly balanced toward one group. An example of groupings would be defined by the terms, “popular,” “punk,” or...