Social rejection is defined as when an individual is excluded from social interaction or a social relationship, with the most common form of rejection being interpersonal (peer). It can happen on an individual basis or within a group in either a passive or active form. Early experiences can have deep impact upon the social, emotional, psychological and behavioural development of humans.
Within a school setting, children are in a key stage of development were they learn and master critical social skills through interacting with others and forming friendships (Parker et al, 1995), making school a social and cognitive process (Welsh et al, 2001). Baumeister & Leary (1995) commented that the need to form friendships and gain acceptance was a psychological need due to its absence having potential risks towards health, stress levels and emotional regulation.
So if the need to form friendships is so dire, what if a child who is new to social interaction and maybe insistent of making new friends was to experience rejection? Children who’re denied positive social relationships and interaction are deprived of a positive working environment which can undermine their social and learning abilities (Parker & Asher, 1987). Negative social experiences caused by difficulties caused in limited social interaction can undermine a person’s emotional, social and self-control which links to academic achievement, including long-term goals (Buhs et al, 2006). Further academic relations with social rejections are an increased absence from class (DeRosier, Kupersmidt & Patterson, 1994), lower rates of achievement (Buhs et al, 2006) and difficulties in student-teacher relations. There are also behaviour problems that contribute and emerge from social rejections that are poisonous to social and learning experiences of children: Inattentive / immature behaviour (Pope & Bierman, 1999), low levels of self-control (Saunders & Chambers, 1996), Aggressive/ Disruptive behaviour (Bierman, 1986) add further implications. These effects can be as early as nursery and can move onto dominate work habits and academic achievements.
So social rejection is a clear problem in an academic context, but identifying why it happens can be problematic. Although there are no major theories to explain its occurrence there are minor works that all add up. But, the simple problem is that majority of opinion towards the subject puts blame on individual deficits in behaviour. Maybe the process isn’t so simple and there are both obvious and subtle reasons for rejection, e.g. domestic life or geographical position. This isn’t a simple process and isn’t easy to recover from with reports still claiming that negative experiences are still felt in adulthood. It’s through social interaction that people gain meaning and problems can cause difficulties in future socio-emotional development, social interactions and relationships.
During my childhood is experience rejection is both subtle and obvious forms, e.g. physical bullying to being ignored by some of my supposed ‘friends’. This is why I am interested in this subject for my research proposal. Having read many articles in relation to the subject I found that there are no major theories, only multiple minor works, which is why I have chosen to do a literature review. Also, there are no arguments existing into how social rejection is formed, which is why I’m going over the obvious and subtle forms of it’s emergence and what problems it can cause in education, and I will try and critique when possible. So within research I shall be hoping to identify:
What problems can emerge within social rejection,
How they can negatively affect academic perform
What potential factors may contribute to rejection that is out of the individual’s control, e.g. disability, classroom size and gender.
And finally, what problems can it cause in adulthood if not intervened.
Behaviour concerns that arise in social rejection are identified as: low rates of pro-social behaviour, high rates of aggressive/disruptive behaviour, high rates of inattentive/ immature behaviour and high rates of socially anxious/ avoidant behaviour (Bierman, 2004; 17). These are toxic to social relationships can occur as early as nursery, meaning so can social rejection.
Pro-social behaviour is highly important in a child’s development because it helps identify attractive playmates that may hold more long-term benefits. This affects the self-esteem and is linked to academic achievement (Trautwein, Lüdtke, Köller & Baumer, 2006). Victims of rejection are absent in pro-social behaviour and usually have low self-esteems (Dodge, Pettit, McClaskey & Brown, 1986). A lack of pro-social behaviour can also make group activities difficult if the partner is un-cooperate and unappealing. Nursery children may find this experience most difficult due to how group activities are encouraged this early.
However, despite popular beliefs that high self esteem facilitates academic achievement. Byrne (1984) found that only a modest correlation existed between general self-esteem and academic achievement. Also, as children age so do their ability to assess individuals, instead of simply seeing people as ‘bad’ or ‘good’. (Bierman, 1988). This can help with opinions and despite negative behaviour and biases, people may choose to socialise with those people. And any form of friendship can be positive, helping pro-social behaviour.
Aggression is destructive in both a social and academic context, contributing to frequent peer disliking and can reflect difficulties in both behaviour and emotional regulation (Coie & Dodge, 1998). Reactionary aggression is the most disruptive form of aggression and is ‘ineffectual’ in creating positive relationships in an academic context (Perry et al, 1992). Displaying this behaviour contributes to a difficult working environment, negative social relationships with the teacher and friends, and can also justify the negative treatment aggressive children receive because of their behaviour (Coie & Dodge, 1998).
In contrast, aggression can be used to benefit social relationships depending if the individual uses it strategically by intimidating their peers into submission. This is labelled as “effectual aggression” (Perry et al, 1992), with children who use it rarely experiencing rejection and victimisation. Bierman et al (1993) in interviews with school children found that her subject JP, who used effectual aggression, was complimented by one child as “smart” and “good in math”
Self- regulation is key academic achievement and this can be unfortunately determined by negative social experiences. This is because children can show delays in internalizing rules and controlling their behaviour. This causes impulsive behaviour which peers can perceive as inappropriate (Saunders & Chambers, 1996). Barber et al (2008) showed the benefits of high self-regulation because people who posses it have better time perception and academically achieve better, this is because they are more future oriented and plan the for the future.
Inattentive/ immature behaviour means children may have difficulty in concentration, listening and low frustration tolerance. Meaning joint activities in school can be difficult and unpleasant for people involved. Failure in adhering to the protocols of organised play result in unpredictable, nonreciprocal and rarely rewarding social relationships (Barkley, 1996). Deficits in “rule governed” behaviour mean it can be challenging for children to internalize rules and can remain highly dependent up parental control (Barkley, 1996), effecting their academic functioning, behaviour inhibitions and delayed gratification.
By being social anxious/ avoidant in their behaviour, children risk being socially ostracised. This is when, through a lack of positive interaction and relationships, can a cycle of deprivation and begin to feel lonely, depressed and worthless (Rubin and Stewart, 1996). This can be created within a group process because it’s they who control the experiences and reactions they have towards the victim. In some cases they may demand a sacrifice for the victim to become a member, e.g. their grades, to conform and become a member. Coleman (2006) argued that within an ‘adolescent society’, conformity and acceptance can come at the price of sacrificing grades.”Methods of enforcing the work-restricting norms are similar to those of workers-ridicule, kidding, exclusion from the group (Coleman, 2006; 42).
School and class size is a more subtle way of determining rejection and how it may be perceived. Children attending smaller schools may suffer less than children who attend larger schools. This is through the potential of forming more interpersonal relationships in smaller social environment (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Blatchford, Bassett & Brown (2011) examined the classroom size and how it related to academic achievement and engagement in schools. Only to discover that those attending smaller schools have better relations with the teacher and were more academically active, most likely due to better ways at executing interdisciplinary teaching methods in smaller classrooms.
Rumberger & Thomas (2000) criticised larger schools for breeding social rejection. In comparing school dropout rates, even through the influence of variables like student-teacher relations, teacher quality and perceptions of education, large schools had the lowest dropout rates in comparison to public, private, catholic and even small schools.
Low student-teacher ratios can contribute to feelings of rejection. Pianta (1999) examined relationships between teachers and students in schools. Low ratios of this provided student’s with better support, communication and positive monitoring by the teacher which benefitted student’s positively.
Teacher-student relationships provide an understanding of what grownups may perceive of a child suffering from social rejection, and despite their training and position, teachers can effect social interaction and academic achievement. If the behaviour of the child isn’t positive, the teacher may resort to more drastic measures of control. By subjecting a person to this level of punishment may create an example of their behaviour, but they also become negatively labelled and abused for their behaviour. This could result in a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ (Ferrante, 2008; 381) and the child’s behaviour may become worse as they get older, just as the teacher may have expected.
Geographical positioning of schools can affect both social rejection and educational experience because of the distance. Some children attending urban schools were reported to have lower progress and achievement in comparison to other schools (National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2001). Further reports have been made on increased victimisation in urban schools and being perceived as more unsafe, resulting in less positive social relations between students in the school which could determine academic performance (Anderman & Kimweli, 1997).
Gender differences mean differences in relationships between peers, with boys more likely than girls to show aggression, hyperactive behaviour and social rejection (Coie et al, 1990). Whereas girl tend to associate their friendships more with intimacy, support and help (Bukowski, Hoza & Boivin, 1994). However, girls are more likely to use more subtle forms of rejection like spreading gossip, rather than physical hostility (Cric & Grotpeter, 1995). Gender segregation maybe responsible for early social rejection. This is because low frequencies of gender interaction create gender preference which is accompanied by less communication and separate shard meaning (Gembeck et al, 2009). Familiarity and shared interests are key to friendship and explain negative attitudes towards the opposite sex because a lack of understanding, resulting in rejection.
Although, in dealing with stressful situations, e.g. exams, Sears, Graham & Campbell (2009), showed male adolescent friends co-operate and rely more on females friends to give them advice. This is because they lack the need to conform to a masculine identity around females, unlike male friends. This provides help in explaining the benefits of cross-gender friendships within an educational setting and that gender preference isn’t always true.
Family dysfunction maybe the cause of some of the children’s negative behaviour because using the social imitation model that Bandura (1961) used to explain aggressive behaviour in children, maybe children copy role models behaviour to obtain what they may desire, which in this case is the rejection of a group member. Solomon & Serress (1999) found that not only did verbal and physical aggression from parents affected children’s grades, but it could also carry on into the school. Bierman & Smoot (1991) argued against this and that families only accounted for a small amount of behavioural problems in education.
Disability is a major contributor to abuse and neglect. Odom et al (2006) studied disabilities in preschool to see it’s affect upon rejection. The range of disabilities varied from physical to mental. The severity of the disability played a determining factor in rejection, with more subtle forms, e.g. learning, had more chance of being socially accepted. However, the accepted ones had problems with social and emotional regulation, which may determine future friendships and interaction.
General long-term problems associated with social rejection in adulthood in ‘rejection sensitivity’. This is when people become sensitive to negative experiences and criticisms, once activated people feel emotionally aroused and threatened, and actively perceive rejection when is isn’t there (Ayduk et al, 1999). As people get older with these problems there emerges a new perceived threat of age-based rejection (Chow, Au & Chiu, 2007). With increasing chances of loneliness and vulnerability of old age, along with the psychological issues of past rejection, it is clear how hazardous negative experiences can determine our heath.
Date & Methodology
My subject is based on social rejection and how it generally affects academic performance. Since this is done within a social setting, I shall be studying adolescents because studying children of a younger age may carry certain risks, e.g. upsetting and causing emotional distress. I will want to study teenagers that are mature enough to discuss their problems, so I will be studying years 10 to 11 in my old high school, after gaining permission from the school authorities and the parents of the participants. My sample will at least need to be 30 people and I shall be using structured-interviews, self reports and observations, allowing my data to be both quantitative and qualitative. I hopefully will be able to get a mixed gendered sample, but in case I don’t have access to it I shall continue with what I have access to. To help me gather my sample I shall need to start interview teachers and ask them about the behaviour in their classroom, who may be at risk of rejection, if they’re victims do they display any key traits, e.g. aggression and how do they perform academically.
In using a similar interview technique to Coie, Dodge & Kupersmidt (1990 cited in Bierman, 2004; 87), I shall be assessing sociometric status and child preference in interviews by restricting the descriptions people give about the 3 people they ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ the most in the school, i.e. teachers or classmates. The names shall remain hidden for purpose of confidentiality. Through assessment of the sample I shall try and see if there are any similarities between the behaviour of the most liked or disliked, or even if there same person has been identified more than once in either category. If there are I shall ask the person who identified them to return and discuss in further detail their relationship with this person. Before and after the interview I shall identify the real meaning of the research and inform the participant that they have the right to withdraw from the research if they’re under distress. This avoid any ethical issues like deception. I shall also rigorous reinforce the need for confidentiality and anonymity for this research because if there is a chance of identification of ‘disliked’ children there maybe consequences.
Concerns with this approach are in the risks it carries for the rejected victim. If the children discuss their choices with the class than the child who the most ‘disliked’, may find themselves the victim for unknown reasons. This carries the potential to increase the negative behaviour of the child. This is why confidentiality and anonymity need to be reinforced during an interview, so the child understands the risks involved. However, a clear strength in the work is that it’s easy to analyse restricted choices making this a potentially reliable method.
After I will need them to do a self report on social relationships and difficulties they have with the most ‘liked’ and ‘disliked’ person. I will be using a three rate scale in assessing these reports in a similar way used by Egan & Perry (1998): Externalising problems (aggression/ disruptive behaviour), internalizing problems (withdrawn, anxious, depressed behaviour) and social skills (pro-social behaviour). After I will need them to identify what other problems they may have at school, e.g. travel, relationships with teachers. These reports can provide personal, more intimate and valid accounts of the social behaviour of the child, however it’s at risk of personal bias. I will try and detect and similarities in relationship between the favour and unfavoured people of the participant.
In my observation is will be assessing in through the Contingencies for Learning Academic Social Skill (CLASS cited in Bierman, 2004; 125) system and counts four different types of behaviour: appropriate peer social behaviour, inappropriate peer social behaviour, on task behaviour (academic tasks) and off-task behaviour (disruptive behaviour). Four types of behaviour directed by the teacher were observed aswell: Approval, disapproval, verbal (negative or positive comments) and attending (listening, watching or viewing). This method is reliable in observing the different dimensions of the classroom and playground, and that is what I may do if I am not satisfied with the reports received of the participants.
The main strength of observation is that is allows a better understanding and identification of people’s social behaviour because of the more natural settings. With me assessing both the classroom and playground behaviour my information maybe more universal. This is because observation helps explain how people cope when engaged and put under different forms of pressure. However, it’s main weakness is that people are always suspicious if they feel they’re under observation and this may prove a weakness in validity responses to their natural environment. Difficulty is also within the reliability of observations because it’s near impossible that the second time I observe behaviour it shall be the same.
In assessing all the information available I shall try and find similarities in the traits Bierman (2004) identified and understanding the most subtle reasons for rejected I shall try and determine the best course of action and hopefully help the teenager understand their problems better . This may encourage changes in social mannerism and pro-social behaviour.