Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 473–485 | Cite as

Health Status and Peer Relationships in Early Adolescence: The Role of Peer Contact, Self-esteem, and Social Anxiety

  • Elizabeth M. McCarroll
  • Eric W. Lindsey
  • Carol MacKinnon-Lewis
  • Jessica Campbell Chambers
  • James M. Frabutt
Original Paper


We examined associations between children’s health status and the quality of their peer relationships, as well as factors that may account for individual variation in the quality of chronically ill and healthy children’s peer relationships. Our sample included 268 children (138 boys; 130 girls) with 149 European-Americans and 119 African-Americans. There were 91 children with a chronic illness; 35 with asthma, 26 with diabetes, and 30 with obesity. Chronically ill children were characterized by teachers as displaying less prosocial behavior, less overt aggression, and less relational aggression with peers than healthy children. Chronically ill children reported lower levels of peer contact and higher levels of social anxiety than healthy children. Among chronically ill children those with high self-esteem were more prosocial and less aggressive than those with low self-esteem. Our findings suggest that chronically ill children are at risk for peer relationship difficulties, but that self-esteem may serve as a protective factor against poor peer relationships for some chronically ill children.


Health status Peer relationships Self-esteem Social anxiety Early adolescence 



This investigation was part of a larger longitudinal research project, supported by a grant to Carol MacKinnon-Lewis from the William T. Grant Foundation, examining family and school factors that influence early adolescents’ adjustment during the transition to middle school. The present study is based on a thesis submitted by Elizabeth McCarroll to the faculty of Texas Tech University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the MS degree. The authors would like to thank Allison Allmon, Kelly Barrow, Angela Walker, and all of the graduate and undergraduate research assistants who worked on this study. We are also grateful to the parents and children who participated in the research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth M. McCarroll
    • 1
  • Eric W. Lindsey
    • 2
  • Carol MacKinnon-Lewis
    • 3
  • Jessica Campbell Chambers
    • 4
  • James M. Frabutt
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Family SciencesTexas Women’s UniversityDentonUSA
  2. 2.Applied Psychology ProgramReadingUSA
  3. 3.Department of Child and Family StudiesUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  4. 4.National Institute on Drug AbuseBethesdaUSA
  5. 5.ACE Leadership ProgramUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

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