PHILIPS, ELLEN MARION; PHD

                         UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH, 1995
                         PSYCHOLOGY, DEVELOPMENTAL (0620); PSYCHOLOGY, SOCIAL (0451)

                         The present study examines developmental changes in children's perceptions of peer social status
                         classifications. In past research social status classifications have been derived primarily through indirect
                         measures, that is, through nominations of most liked and least liked peers. Such investigations have
                         failed to ask children directly about their understanding of these classifications and about children who fit
                         into the popular, rejected, neglected, or average categories. There are known changes in what children
                         value in a friend, but little is known about the criteria on which children might assign peers to the different
                         social status groups and how such criteria might change with age. Children in Grades 1, 4, and 8 were
                         asked to assign same-sex peers to one of four social status groups: Most Like, Some Like, Most Do Not
                         Like, and Forgotten. Children were then given an individual person perception interview. They were
                         asked to describe members from each of the groups to which they assigned peers and to explain why
                         they think those children are 'popular' or 'rejected' and so forth. The content of children's descriptions
                         were examined for age and sex differences in criteria that might lead one to be named, for example, as
                         'popular.' Children's more general representation of social status groups was also examined in terms of
                         how they distributed their assignments of peers across status groups, the degree of consensus reached
                         on peer status assignments, and their accuracy at self-assessment of status. Results show that children's
                         understanding of social status seems to coalesce with age. Consensus regarding the status group to
                         which individual children belong improves with age as does children's differentiation of the status
                         groups. The results also support the need to look at the perceptions of the criteria for social status
                         membership separately for boys and girls: Descriptors such as Supportive and Trust become the focus of
                         girls, whereas descriptors such as Athletic and Aggressive clearly are the focus of boys.


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