The primary objective of this project is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the experience of peer rejection for middle childhood girls. Such knowledge is critical as children who are actively disliked or rejected by their peers are at heightened risk for a number of negative outcomes including delinquency and criminality, early school withdrawal, or academic, behavioral, or emotional problems. To date there is very little known about the immediate social consequences of peer rejection and the processes by which they could increase a child's risk for disorder. Most of the information that is known comes from experimental and quasi-experimental studies of the determinants of childhood peer rejection that have been conducted with boys. Given the clear differences in social behavior characterizing the same sex peer groups in which boys and girls interact, it is highly probable that this knowledge reflects social problems and processes that are specific to boys. Yet, some recent research suggests that the effects of rejection are more direct and more powerful for girls. The proposed assessment of the social world experienced by rejected girls will include a comprehensive, multi-setting examination of their social behavior and cognitions as well as a sampling of those from the broader community of girls with whom they interact. The proposed database will include observations of targeted rejected and more socially successful comparison girls from their classrooms in familiar and unfamiliar experimenter-formed playgroups, similar to the research paradigm used in prior research to understand the emergence and maintenance of rejection among boys. A recurring entry situation will be embedded in the context of these playgroups, to provide additional assessment of the child and group contributions to rejection. These playgroup observations will be supplemented by observations of the targeted rejected and comparison girls in the school lunchroom, a setting expected to allow insight into group dynamics as they unfold in the natural school environment. Observational data also will be collected of each of the targeted rejected and comparison girls interacting individual with their best friends in order to assess the role friendship might play in either moderating or intensifying the girls' rejected status. Individual interviews as well as interviews with teachers and mothers will be used to supplement the observational data for a more complete assessment of the social experience of peer rejected girls in and out of the school setting. A final objective of this project is to explore ethnic and socioeconomic differences regarding peer rejection among girls.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Child/Adolescent Risk and Prevention Review Committee (CAPR)
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Boyce, Cheryl A
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Duke University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Putallaz, Martha; Grimes, Christina L; Foster, Kristen J et al. (2007) Overt and Relational Aggression and Victimization: Multiple Perspectives within the School Setting. J Sch Psychol 45:523-547
Gazelle, Heidi; Putallaz, Martha; Li, Yan et al. (2005) Anxious solitude across contexts: girls' interactions with familiar and unfamiliar peers. Child Dev 76:227-46