Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 39, Issue 11, pp 1330–1342 | Cite as

Understanding the Link Between Social and Emotional Well-Being and Peer Relations in Early Adolescence: Gender-Specific Predictors of Peer Acceptance

  • Eva Oberle
  • Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl
  • Kimberly C. Thomson
Empirical Research

Abstract

Past studies have investigated relationships between peer acceptance and peer-rated social behaviors. However, relatively little is known about the manner in which indices of well-being such as optimism and positive affect may predict peer acceptance above and beyond peer ratings of antisocial and prosocial behaviors. Early adolescence—roughly between the ages of 9 and 14—is a time in the life span in which individuals undergo a myriad of changes at many different levels, such as changes due to cognitive development, pubertal development, and social role redefinitions. The present study investigated the relationship of self-reported affective empathy, optimism, anxiety (trait measures), and positive affect (state measure) to peer-reported peer acceptance in 99 (43% girls) 4th and 5th grade early adolescents. Because our preliminary analyses revealed gender-specific patterns, hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to investigate the predictors of peer acceptance separately for boys and for girls. Girls’ acceptance of peers was significantly predicted by higher levels of empathy and optimism, and lower positive affect. For boys, higher positive affect, lower empathy, and lower anxiety significantly predicted peer acceptance. The results emphasize the importance of including indices of social and emotional well-being in addition to peer-ratings in understanding peer acceptance in early adolescence, and urge for more research on gender-specific peer acceptance.

Keywords

Peer acceptance Social and emotional well-being Empathy Optimism Gender differences 

References

  1. Achat, H., Kawachi, I., Spiro, A., de Moles, D. A., & Sparrow, D. (2000). Optimism and depression as predictors of physical and mental health functioning: The Normative Aging Study. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 22, 127–130.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Asher, S. R., & McDonald, K. L. (2009). The behavioral basis of acceptance, rejection, and perceived popularity. In K. H. Rubin, W. M. Bukowski, & B. Laursen (Eds.), Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups (pp. 232–248). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bell-Dolan, D., & Wessler, A. E. (1994). Ethical administration of sociometric measures: Procedures in use and suggestions for improvement. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 25, 23–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Benson, P. L., Scales, P. C., Hamilton, S. L., Sesma, A., Jr., Hong, K. L., & Roehlkepartain, E. C. (2006). Positive youth development so far: Core hypotheses and their implications for policy and practice. Search Institute Insights and Evidence, 3, 1–13.Google Scholar
  5. Berndt, T. J., & Keefe, K. (1995). Friends’ influence on adolescents’ adjustment to school. Child Development, 66, 1312–1329.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bukowski, W. M., Gauze, C., Hoza, B., & Newcomb, A. F. (1993). Differences and consistency between same-sex and other-sex peer relationships during early adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 29, 255–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cillessen, A. H. N. (2009). Sociometric methods. In K. H. Rubin, W. M. Bukowski, & B. Laursen (Eds.), Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups (pp. 82–99). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  8. Cillessen, A. H. N., & Mayeux, L. (2004). From censure to reinforcement: Developmental changes in the association between aggression and social status. Child Development, 75, 147–163.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Claes, M., & Simard, R. (1993). Friendship characteristics of delinquent adolescents. International Journal of Adolescence & Youth, 3, 287–301.Google Scholar
  10. Clonan, S. M., Chafouleas, S. M., McDougal, J. L., & Riley-Tillman, T. C. (2004). Positive psychology goes to school: Are we there yet? Psychology in the Schools, 41, 101–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Connell, J. P., & Wellborn, J. G. (1991). Competence, autonomy, and relatedness: A motivational analysis of self-system processes. In M. R. Gunnar & L. A. Sroufe (Eds.), Self processes and development: The Minnesota symposia on child development (Vol. 23, pp. 43–78). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  12. Damon, W. (2004). What is positive youth development? Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 591, 13–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davis, M. H. (1983). Measuring individual differences in empathy: Evidence for a multidimensional approach. Journal of Personaliy and Social Psychology, 44, 113–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Davis, T. (1995). Gender differences in masking negative emotions: Ability or motivation? Developmental Psychology, 31, 660–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Decovic, M., & Gerris, J. R. M. (1994). Developmental analysis of social, cognitive and behavioral differences between popular and rejected children. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 15, 367–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological Science, 13, 81–84.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Dijkstra, J. K., Lindenberg, S., & Veenstra, R. (2007). Same-gender and cross-gender peer acceptance and peer rejection and their relation to bullying and helping among preadolescents: Comparing predictors from gender-homophily and goal-framing approaches. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1377–1389.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Dougherty, L. R. (2006). Children’s emotionality and social status: A meta-analytic review. Social Development, 15, 394–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Eccles, J. S. (1999). The development of children ages 6 to 14. The Future of Children: When School is Out, 9, 30–44.Google Scholar
  20. Eccles, J. S., & Roeser, R. W. (2009). Schools, academic motivation, and stage-environment fit. In R. M. Lerner & L. Steinberg (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent psychology (3rd ed., pp. 404–434). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  21. Eisenberg, N., & Fabes, R. A. (1990). Empathy: Conceptualization, measurement, and relation to prosocial behavior. Motivation and Emotion, 14, 131–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Eisenberg, N., Fabes, R. A., & Spinrad, T. L. (2006). Prosocial development. In N. Eisenberg (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology. Social, emotional, and personality development (Vol. 3, pp. 646–718). New York, NY: Wiley.Google Scholar
  23. Erdley, C. A., Nangle, D. W., Newman, J. W., & Carpenter, E. M. (2001). Children’s friendship experiences and psychological adjustment: Theory and research. In D. W. Nangle & C. A. Erdley (Series Eds.) & W. Damon (Volume Ed.), New directions for child and adolescent development. The role of friendship in psychological adjustment (Vol. 91, pp. 5–24). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  24. Flanagan, K. S., Erath, S. A., & Bierman, K. L. (2008). Unique associations between peer relations and social anxiety in early childhood. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 39, 759–769.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gazelle, H., & Druhen, M. J. (2009). Anxious solitude and peer exclusion predicts social helplessness, upset affect, and vagal regulation in response to behavioral rejection by a friend. Developmental Psychology, 45, 1077–1096.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Georgiou, S. N., & Stavrinides, P. (2008). Bullies, victims, and bully-victims: Psychosocial profiles and attribution styles. School Psychology International, 29, 574–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Greener, H. S. (2000). Peer assessment of children’s prosocial behavior. Journal of Moral Education, 29, 47–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hartup, W. W. (1996). The company they keep: Friendships and their developmental significance. Child Development, 67, 1–13.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Hinnant, J. B., & O’Brian, M. (2007). Cognitive and emotional control and perspective taking and their relations to empathy in 5-year-old children. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 168, 301–322.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Huebner, E. S., & Gilman, R. (2003). Toward a focus on positive psychology in school psychology. School Psychology Quarterly, 18, 99–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hymel, S., Vaillancourt, T., McDougall, P., & Renshaw, P. D. (2002). Peer acceptance and rejection in childhood. In P. K. Smith & C. H. Hart (Eds.), Blackwell handbook of childhood social development (pp. 265–284). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  32. Inderbitzen, H. M., Walters, K. S., & Bukowski, A. L. (1997). The role of social anxiety in adolescent peer relations: Differences among sociometric status groups and rejected subgroups. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 26, 338–348.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Jaffe, P. G., Wolfe, D., Crooks, C., Hughes, R., & Baker, L. L. (2004). The fourth “R”: Developing healthy relationships through school-based interventions. In P. G. Jaffe, L. L. Baker, & A. J. Cunningham (Eds.), Protecting children from domestic violence (pp. 200–218). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  34. Juvonen, J., & Graham, S. (2001). Peer harassment in school: The plight of the vulnerable and victimized. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  35. Kumpfer, K. L. (1999). Factors and processes contributing to resilience: The resilience framework. In M. Glantz & J. Johnson (Eds.), Resilience and development: Positive life adaptations (pp. 179–224). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.Google Scholar
  36. Kuperschmidt, J. B., & Coie, J. D. (1990). Preadolescent peer status, aggression, and school adjustment as predictors of externalizing problems in adolescence. Child Development, 61, 1350–1362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kusche, C. A., Greenberg, M. T., & Beilke, R. (1988). Seattle personality questionnaire for young school-aged children. Seattle, OR: University of Washington, Department of Psychology.Google Scholar
  38. Lafferty, J. (2004). The relationships between gender, empathy, and aggressive behaviours among early adolescents. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 64(12), 6377B.Google Scholar
  39. Laurent, J., Cantanzaro, S., Joiner, T. E., Rudolph, K. D., Potter, K. I., Lambert, S., et al. (1999). A measure of positive affect for children: Scale development and preliminary validation. Psychological Assessment, 11, 326–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005a). The benefits of positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 6, 803–855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005b). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Maccoby, E. E. (1990). Gender and relationships: A developmental account. American Psychologist, 45, 513–520.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. McDougall, P., & Hymel, S. (2007). Same-gender versus cross-gender friendship conceptions: Similar of different? Merrill Palmer Quarterly, 53, 347–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McDougall, P., Hymel, S., Vaillancourt, T., & Mercer, L. (2001). The consequences of childhood peer rejection. In M. Leary (Ed.), Interpersonal rejection (pp. 21–53). London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Mercer, S. H., & DeRosier, M. E. (2008). Teacher preference, peer rejection, and student aggression: A prospective study of transactional influence and independent contributions to emotional adjustment and grades. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 661–685.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Nangle, D. W., & Erdley, C. A. (2001). Editors’ notes. In D. W. Nangle & C. A. Erdley (Series Eds.) & W. Damon (Volume Ed.), New directions for child and adolescent development. The role of friendship in psychological adjustment (Vol. 91, pp. 1–4). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  47. Nesdale, D., & Lambert, A. (2007). Effects of experimentally manipulated peer rejection on children’s negative affect, self-esteem, and maladaptive social behavior. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 31, 115–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Noam, G. G., & Goldstein, L. S. (1998). The resiliency inventory. Unpublished Protocol.Google Scholar
  49. Parker, J. G., & Asher, S. R. (1993). Friendship and friendship quality in middle childhood: Links between peer group acceptance and feelings of loneliness and social dissatisfaction. Developmental Psychology, 29, 611–621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Parkhurst, J. T., & Asher, S. R. (1992). Peer rejection in middle school: Subgroup differences in behavior, loneliness, and interpersonal concerns. Developmental Psychology, 28, 231–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Pellegrini, A. D. (2004). Sexual segregation in childhood: A review of evidence for two hypotheses. Animal Behaviour, 68, 435–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Pepler, D. J., & Craig, M. W. (1998). Assessing children’s peer relationships. Child Psychology & Psychiatry Review, 3, 176–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rose, A. J. (2007). Structure, content, and socioemotional correlates of girls’ and boys’ friendships. Merrill Palmer Quarterly, 53, 489–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rose, A. J., & Smith, R. L. (2009). Sex differences in peer relationships. In K. H. Rubin, W. M. Bukowski, & B. Laursen (Eds.), Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups (pp. 379–393). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  55. Rubin, K. H., Bukowski, W., & Parker, J. (2006). Peer interactions, relationships, and groups. In N. Eisenberg (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Social, emotional and personality development (6th ed., pp. 571–645). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  56. Schonert-Reichl, K. A. (1999). Relations of peer acceptance, friendship, adjustment, and social behavior to moral reasoning during early adolescence. Journal of Early Adolescence, 19, 249–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Buote, D., Jaramillo, A., & Foulkes, K. (2008). Happiness, optimism, and positive psychological traits during pre and early adolescence: Relations to parents, peers, and after school time. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research and Adolescence, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  58. Schultz, D., Izard, C. E., Stapleton, L. M., Buckingham-Howes, S., & Bear, G. A. (2009). Children’s social status as a function of emotionality and attention control. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30, 169–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Seligman, E. P., & Csikszentimihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55, 5–14.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Song, M. (2003). Two studies on the resiliency inventory (RI): Toward the goal of creating a culturally sensitive measure of adolescent resilience. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  61. Steinberg, L. (1990). Autonomy, conflict, and harmony in the family relationship. In S. S. Feldman & G. R. Elliott (Eds.), At the threshold: The developing adolescent (pp. 255–276). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Steinberg, L. (2005). Cognitive and affective development in adolescence. Trends in Cognitive Science, 9, 69–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Sullivan, H. S. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  64. Terjesen, M., Jacofsky, M., Froh, J., & DiGiuseppe, R. (2004). Integrating positive psychology into schools: Implications for practice. Psychology in the Schools, 41, 163–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Trentacosta, C. J., & Shaw, D. S. (2009). Emotional self-regulation, peer rejection, and antisocial behavior: Development associations from early childhood to early adolescence. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30, 356–365.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Vaillancourt, T., & Hymel, S. (2006). Aggression and social status: The moderating roles of sex and peer valued characteristics. Aggressive Behavior, 32, 396–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Vitaro, F., Boivin, M., & Bukowski, W. M. (2009). The role of friendship in child and adolescent development. In K. H. Rubin, W. M. Bukowski, & B. Laursen (Eds.), Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups (pp. 568–585). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  68. Walker, S. (2004). Teacher reports of social behavior and peer acceptance in early childhood: Sex and social status differences. Child Study Journal, 34, 13–28.Google Scholar
  69. Walter, J. L., & LaFreniere, P. J. (2000). A naturalistic study of affective expression, social competence, and sociometric status. Early Education & Development, 11, 109–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Wentzel, K. R. (1994). Relations of social goal pursuit to social acceptance, classroom behavior, and social support. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86, 173–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wentzel, K. R. (2003). School adjustment. In W. M. Reynolds & G. J. Miller (Eds.), Handbook of psychology: Educational psychology (Vol. 7, pp. 235–258). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  72. Wentzel, K. R. (2009). Peers and academic functioning at school. In K. H. Rubin, W. M. Bukowski, & B. Laursen (Eds.), Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups (pp. 531–547). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  73. Wentzel, K. R., Barry, C., & Caldwell, K. (2004). Friendships in middle school: Influences on motivation and school adjustment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 195–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wentzel, K. R., & Caldwell, K. A. (1997). Friendships, peer acceptance, and group membership: Relations to academic achievement in middle school. Child Development, 68, 1198–1209.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. Wigfield, A., Byrnes, J. P., & Eccles, J. S. (2006). Development during early and middle adolescence. In P. A. Alexander & P. H. Winne (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 87–113). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  76. Woodward, L. J., & Fergusson, D. M. (1999). Childhood peer relationship problems and psychosocial adjustment in late adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 27, 87–104.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  77. Younger, A. J., Schneider, B. H., Guirguis, M., & Bergeron, N. (2000). A behavior-based peer-nomination measure of social withdrawal. Social Development, 9, 544–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Zeman, J., & Garber, J. (1996). Display rules for anger, sadness, and pain: It depends on who is watching. Child Development, 67, 957–973.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eva Oberle
    • 1
  • Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl
    • 1
  • Kimberly C. Thomson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special EducationUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations