Peer Exclusion May Be as Harmful as Bullying

Children who are excluded by their peers may suffer academically.

A recent study in the Journal of Educational Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), shows that children who feel left out of peer activities suffer academically as well as socially.

The study followed 380 children, ages 5 through 11, for five years. It revealed that peer exclusion began a vicious cycle: children who felt rejected by their peers began to withdraw in order to escape the psychological trauma, further hampering their social development and levels of comfort with interaction.

Interestingly, this withdrawal from all school activities, including clubs, group projects, and classroom question-and-answer sessions, was also shown to hamper these children academically.

Although not as visible as verbal or physical forms of abuse, exclusion "may be particularly detrimental to children's participation in many school activities," said the study's lead author Eric Buhs, PhD, of the University of Nebraska. Buhs adds that peer group rejection appears to be one of the strongest predictors of a child's academic success or failure.

The findings from this study show that peer exclusion is a potentially damaging form of social cruelty -- equivalent to bullying -- and can severely impact children for the duration of their school years. The study did not address methods of prevention or intervention, but this will clearly be a topic of interest going forward.

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