Later Relationships

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The development of friendships

According to Erwin (1998) children's friendships have a number of different functions:

  • Allow for development of interactional and cognitive skills
  • Provide an opportunity for intimacy
  • Enable us to exchange and test knowledge of people and the world
  • Can be an important emotional buffer in times of stress
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Age related differences in friendships

Many studies show that friends tend to share personality traits, interests, backgrounds etc.

More than half of 3-4 year olds have at least one friendship that lasts at least 6 months (Howes 1996)
At 7 years of age, children often identify 4 friends and 12 year olds usually say they have 7 friends (Reisman and Shorr, 1978.) At all of these ages, friends tend to be of the same sex and also quite similar.

When 9-13 year old friends were compared to non friends on a range of characteristics, such as cooperation, shyness, being aggressive and helpful, the friends were more similar than non friends.

Hartup and Stevens (1999) report a decrease in the number of friends after early teens. Children seem to value friends more as they get older and prefer the company of peers to adults and family. So their understanding of friendship seems to age with age.

This age-related change may be explained through a lessening egocentrism and being able to see things from someone else's point of view.

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Age related differences in friendships - study

Selman and Jaquette
Aim: to investigate the opinions of friendship
Method: 200 individuals aged between 3 and 4 years were interviewed on friendships.
Approx age. Features of friendship

3-7. Playing together

4-9. Giving help, but not friendly reciprosy

6-12. Focus on reciprosy

9-15. Intimacy and sharing

12- adult Independence but authority of each person
Conclusion: With increasing age, the nature of friendship changes
Evaluation: Provides info of the way children's friendships develop. However, the studies rely on interviews and so the study is highly qualitative and subjective.

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Age related differences - Bigelow and Gapia

Bigelow and Gapia found that after asking 960 children from Canada and Scotland about best friends, the stories were rated and 3 stages of friendship were identified:

Age. Name. Features of stage

7-8. Reward cost. Common activities, similar expectations

9-10. Normative. Shared values and rules

11-12. Empathetic. Understanding, sharing of self and shared interest

These two studies differ in precise description of development of friendship. Both studies found that as children get older, friendship involves a change from physical to psychological processes.

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Age related differences - ao2

It has been suggested that having friends can be important for later development, and one or two friends can make it less likely that rejected or isolated children at older ages experience developmental difficulties.

Selman and Jaquette found that with increasing age, the nature of friendship changes.

The increasingly complex understanding of friendship show in older children may be due to the increased ability to express such ideas in language, in which younger children cannot do. Just as a child doesn't talk about characteristics such as trust and empathy, it doesn't mean they don't appreciate and recognise such characteristics in a friend.

Many studies involve the use of an interview and lack formal structure and control. Usually, the interview is followed by analysis and categorisation of responses - this can be subjective. This is very likely when responses take an open ended form.

Hypothetical dilemma responses have been used in many contexts, including investigations of moral and pro social reasoning, and it has been suggested that hypothetical reasoning tends to be more advanced than real life understanding. Serafica found responses to questions of hypothetical friends and some yielded descriptions that were quite different.

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Sex related differences in friendship

Waldron and Haverson suggested boys tend to have more extensive relationships and view groups as a network of friendship pairs. Girls have more intensive relationships and focus on sharing emotions and info.

Both said that they prefer same sex relationships. Halle found that children, especially girls, tend to choose same sex partners - so children's choices in an abstract reasoning task appear to be similar to the choices they make in real life situations.

Research in Brazil has found that 3-10 year olds usually nominate same sex people as best friends and give higher ratings of liking to same sex individuals ( de Gunzman et al.)

He also found girls tend to dislike more individuals than boys - this is consistent with boys having a wider network of friends. Brazilian children, unlike in the USA, only the middle age group showed widespread dislike of opposite sex children.

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Sex differences in friendship - Rose and Rudolph

Rose and Rudolph reviewed over 300 studies that make comparisons between boy and girl relationships from a preschool age:

-By 6, boys tend to play in large groups and engage in rough and tumble play, when older they engage in sports. Boys of the preschool age to adolescence have dense social networks that involve more relationships, and tend to have a dominance hierarchy. Boys focus more on presenting themselves to the group, and their place in the hierarchy. The pressures and stresses are likely to be verbal or physical victimisation.

-Girls have larger social interactions and tend to have pro social behaviour. They're more concerned of their friendships and have more empathy and concerns of helping and connecting to others. The pressures and stresses they feel are likely to be difficulties with others and problems of social interactions and friendships (eg, someone not talking to you or not having as many friends.)

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Sex differences in friendship

Before 2 years old, interaction tends to be in pairs, with little evidence of same sex preference but before the concepts of 'boy' and 'girl' are properly developed, children prefer the company of same sex groups (Erwin 1998.) This may, however, be due to them engaging in separate activities.

By 5, they show greater same sex preference, boys more than girls. By 11 or 12, the groups have become very Important and sex segregation is almost complete.

Benson investigated social networks in 10 year old boys and girls - boys were found to have more extensive social networks than girls, and each individual's focus was to heighten the group's status. Girls had small, intimate groups, and each individual's focus was to share emotion and therefore strengthen the two person relationship. This shows boys and girls have different types of relationships.and different idea of what attributes to the group.

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Sex related differences - Lever

Lever investigated sex differences in friendship attributes and friendship behaviour. Several sex differences emerged:

-Girls are most comfortable with a single best friend, being less likely than boys to permit a 3rd member into the group
-Girls openly showed affection - unlike boys
-Girls were more sensitive to the fragility of the friendship, and were more scared of falling out
-Girls were more likely to be jealous of a 3rd party
-Girls shared personal intimacies

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Sex related differences - ao2

  • During adolescence, these sex differences do not change a lot from childhood. Boys are much less concerned of forming close or intimate friendships, but they still focus on the importance of the group.
  • Douvan and Adelson suggested boys need the group to defy authority, whereas girls don't need this sort of strength. Beneson and Chriskos found girl's friendships lasted shorter than boys, and girls were most upset at the thought of a friendship ending. Girls were more likely to recognise if they had done something to upset a friend, and girls had more 'best friends' than boys.
  • The male preference for larger friendship groups could be explained from a biological and evolutionary standpoint - males may want to fulfil the need to compete in a dominance hierarchy. Viewing social behaviour from this perspective could explain why females prefer quieter, intimate relationships and activities, using friends for individual support, as naturally they are nurturing and caring.
  • Traditional behaviourists would argue that sex differences in friendships are due to operant conditioning. Male and females are conditioned and reinforced from an early age to what is seen as sex appropriate behaviour, so girls are encouraged to play quietly and boys to play competitively in groups.
  • Social learning theorists would suggest boys and girls were simply copying adult behaviour from models in their environment.
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Popularity and rejection

Friendship and popularity tend to be associated - a child with many friends is 'popular.' But a child can still be unpopular with most children in a class, but still have one or two close friends.

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Popularity and rejection - three methods

The three methods to assess popularity and rejection are:

1) OBSERVATION - observations of the duration of play between the children, and the number of positive or negative behaviours

2) ADULT REPORTS - asking a teacher or parent to identify which children are friends with which

3) CHILD REPORTS - asking children for their opinions. This usually involves questions of each class mate, like 'would you like to play a game with x?'

Sociometry is a technique used to plot the relationships between people. A sociogram can be used to show which children are friends with which, and which children have more friends. The information can be obtained by child reports.

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Popularity and rejection - Coie et al

Discussions of popularity usually involve popular, rejected and neglected children, but many children don't fit into these groups. Coie et al (1982) suggested that information should be collected about 2 dimensions - being liked by others and being disliked by others. From this it is possible to identify 5 different types of peer ratings:

Type of child. Liked most often by. Liked least often by

Popular. Many. . Few.

Rejected. Few. Many.

Neglected. Few. Few

Controversial. Many. Many.

Average. Average. Average

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Popularity and rejection - causes - Doge et al

A study by Doge 1983, investigated the characteristics of popular, rejected and neglected children:

Aim: investigate the way in which children joined in play with others and how this was related to their popularity

Method: observations were made of the way children with different levels of popularity joined a game being played by two other children. These observations were 5 year olds in a playground.

Results: popular children tended to observe what was going on around them and join in by making positive statements of the group, rejected children were likely to interrupt the play and be disruptive, and neglected children tended to wait and watch but not get involved.

Evaluation: observational studies are important in helping describe behaviour. However, one limitation of observation is that it doesn't provide information on cause and effect - a study on black South African children between eight and twelve found that popular children and rejected children didn't differ in initiations of contact, but popular had more initiations from other children (Kruger, 1996.)

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Popularity and rejection- causes - attractiveness

Children prefer to be friends with those who are attractive, and even young children prefer to look at those who are more attractive than unattractive peers.

Higher status kids and those perceived to be more competent, at things like sport tended to be more popular. Vaughn and Langlois found a significant correlation between ratings of attractiveness and popularity.

There was a more significant correlation for girls than boys.

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Popularity and rejection - causes - similarity

Children will choose friends who live near and who they see regularly.

As we find similarity reinforcing, children will choose from a similar background of the same sex, with strong interests.

Rubin refers to strong pressures to exclude the deviant child.

Kandel found maintained friendships existed at the start and the end of the year, dissolved friendships that existed at the start, but not the end of the year, and newly formed friendships which started during the year.

They may adopt other's interests and characteristics.

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Popularity and rejection - causes

Child attachment theory and the internal working model

According to attachment theory and the internal working model, the relationship between child and mother sets a pattern for future relationships. The rejected child may have no model to base relationships, or hasn't had the satisfactory loving care of a single loving adult.

Hazan and Shaver proposed that 3 types of attachment shown in Ainsworth's strange situation are carried through to later relationships. The anxious-resistant and anxious-avoidant are more likely to have issues in childhood and adolescent relationships.

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Popularity and rejection - causes

Personality charecteristics

Rejected children do seem to show aggressive and disruptive behaviours, but it is hard to establish cause and effect.

Dodge arranged for children to play together (age 6-8 and didn't know one another) over a number of weeks. The children were tested for personality characteristics before the play sessions began and were observed during the sessions.

A clear link was found between their personality traits and popularity. Once a child had been labelled 'unpopular' though, their behaviour became even more negative (self fulfilling.)

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Popularity and rejection - causes - social skills

There are other possible explanations than attachment theory - a number of studies have shown that one reason for rejection of peers may be that the child has poor social skills, and so experience difficulties interacting with others.

If poor social skills are the root of the problem, then training in social skills should lead to an increase n popularity. Oden and Asher set up a programme for social skills for 8-9 year old isolates.

The unpopular children were coached on how to join in, turntaking, sharing, communication, giving attention to others and helping. They were no longer isolated, were more outgoing and positive and had improved social skills.

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Popularity and rejection - causes - evaluation

However, there isn't a clear cause and effect relationship between social inadequacy and rejection. Perhaps initial peer group rejection leads to an expectation of social failure. As a child expects to be rejected, they may then avoid social opportunities to practise peer social skills. They then become more deficient.

Ladd and Golter followed 3 to 4 year olds for a year to see if they could detect a cause and effect between social incompetence and unpopularity. They found that early argumentative behaviour predicted later social status.

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Schaffer (2004)

Schaffer summarised these characteristics of popular, rejected and neglected children, using findings from a number of investigations.

He found popular children tended to have little aggression, whilst rejected were argumentative and antisocial. Neglected children tended to have little antisocial behaviour and were rarely agressive. 

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Popularity and rejection - characteristics ao2

Studies such as Schaffer's suggest that the characteristics of children influence how they are liked by their peers, in particular, aggressive behaviour results in unpopularity. But we cannot be sure of cause and effect. 

Coie et al (1990) carreid out more controlled investigations. He assessed children aged 6-8, who had never met before. Their popularity was assessed and it was found that, over time, the children's characteristics identified in the initial assessments were related to their popularity. This was most strongly seen in the case of rejected children, where aggression and other characteristics identified at the start appeared to influence the feelins of other children towards the rejected child.

Rejected children also tend to think of themselves as less socially competent and more anxious. They also appear to overestimate their own popularity; having an unrealisic view may mean that they do not see a need to modify their own behaviour (Patterson et al, 1990.)

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Popularity and rejection - the consequences

Children tend to remain as popular, rejected or neglected over time - even if class and school change. Coie and dodge (1983) found a reasonably high degree of continuity over 5 years.

Negative outcomes have been focused on. The main issues include; school/academic success, internalising problems eg, depression, anxiet and externalising problems (eg, aggression and truancy.)

Parker and Asher (1987) reviewed findings about peer relations and later personal adjustment. They concluded children who have difficulties with peers, such as being rejected are risk of difficulties in later life. Links clearest for children who are not accepted by their peers who are also aggressive - these children found to be particularly at risk for dropping out of school and criminality. However, children who are not accepted by their peer are shy and withdrawn have no consistent evidence of negative later outcomes.

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The consequences - the models

Parker and Asher's causal model states that aggressive and withdrawn behaviours cause low peer acceptance, which leads to negative later behaviours.

Their incidental model states aggresiveness results in peer rejection, but this has no real role to play in causing later negative outcomes. 

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Kuperschmit and Coie (1990)

AIM - To investigate the characteristics of rejected children when they are older

METHOD - Longitudinal study of 112 children in the USA was conducted. Popularity was assessed at 11 years and problems assessed over 18 years.

RESULTS - Of the young children who'd ben rejected by their peers at 11 years, 15% were suspended or dropped out at 18% and nearly 1/3 had some contact with the police. Neglected children had a very similar outcome to the popular children. Further analysis of the whole sample revealed that aggression, rather than rejected was the best predictor of later problems for rejected children. 

CONCLUSION - Aggression appears to have a role to play in this process

EVAL - Support for the incidental model was obtained for the whole sample - but this may not apply to all individuals. This also shows that the complexity of trying to draw clear conclusions from investigations in this topic.

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Consequences of popularity/rejection - AO2

A large scale study by Dodge (2003) found that in children who were more aggressive at an early age (5-8) their social rejection was related to their later anti social behaviour. However, in children who aren't aggressive, social rejection wasn't related to later behaviour.

Hymel (1990) suggested that one of the reasons why rejected children drop out is becuase they associate with others who have low educational expectations, and the rejected children's difficulties are as they aren't part of school culture.

Mcdougall et al's conclusions were that in boys, the combination of early aggression and rejection provide the best prediction of later externalising problems. For girls, there is no consistency across different studies in findings of the best predictions of later externalising problems. Both boys and girls, with the combination of social withdrawl and rejection, increases the child's risk for later internalising problems. He suggests that, it is particularly critical to the process, how the individual feels about situations, and viewing oneself as rejected and lonely heightens the chance of later problems. 

Dodge also suggested that children's beliefs and attitudes have an important role in relation to rejection. Dodge believes rejection increaes the strength of the child's 'rejection' characteristics. This is becuase rejected children have less social experience with others and they have a higher level of stress.

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Popularity and rejection - consequences Ao2 study

Laursen et al (2007)

AIM - 266 Finnish childen aged 7-9 years took part. The children named others that they 'spent more time with' and those that they 'spent least time with'  to see which child was more isolated. The children's adjustment issues were assesed in an interview.

RESULTS - Examination was made of the relationship between friendship pairs in adjustmental difficulties 12 months later. Isolated children with one or two friends had no significant connection between being isolated and later externalising/internalising problems. Children with no initial friends had a connection between isolation at older ages.

CONCLUSION - This displays that the presence of a friend reduces the effect of being an isolated child.

EVAL - Because this wasn't an experimental study, we cannot be absolutley sure of the results.

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