Science Helps Explain Why Kids Get Rejected By Their Peers

New research suggests kids think about how including or rejecting kids on the playground affects them and their social group.
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Is there anything more painful than watching your child get rejected by his or her peers? Especially since we know that rejection in childhood can have lasting effects.

Now new research, published in Frontiers in Psychology, looks at the so-called rejecter instead of the rejected to understand this complex issue. And while you'd think the behavior of the child who is rejected would explain the rejection, it turns out this isn't the whole story.

"We find that the rejected child's behaviour does not lead directly or inevitably to rejection," explained Francisco Juan García Bacete, a Professor in the Department of Developmental, Educational and Social Psychology and Methodology, at the Jaume I University, Spain, adding, "Instead, what actually leads to rejection are the rejecters' interpretations of the child's behaviour, and whether they think it will have a negative impact on themselves or their social group."

To reach their conclusions, researchers talked to hundreds of kids ages 5-7 about whom they liked least in their class. The kids gave a variety of seemingly-random answers such as "I don't like playing football," "He's boring," "He's new," and "She cheats." Good thing the researchers were ready to address this randomness with Grounded Theory, which García Bacete explains this way: "So rather than forcing the data to be grouped under preconceived headings, we let the data speak for itself."

No matter the specific reason, what researchers concluded is that why a child was rejected was about the rejecter's perception of how it affected them and their friends.

This lends credence to the idea that bullies are to blame for their bullying behavior, and not the kids who are bullied, something that may seem obvious to parents, but isn't always as clear to kids. Hopefully this research will further arm parents in helping their kids deal with bullies and rejection.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook and Instagram where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.

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