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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Friendship understanding in socially accepted, rejected, and neglected children Bichard, Sandra Lynn


The purpose of this study was to determine whether children with poor peer relations display a developmental lag in their conceptions of friendship. The social-cognitive level of friendship understanding, as outlined in Selman's Theory of Interpersonal Understanding, was compared in a sample of 31 second-grade and 40 seventh-grade children who were identified as being accepted, rejected, or neglected by peers, according to a peer sociometric nomination measure. As expected, results indicated that conceptions of friendship held by grade 7 children represented higher stages of social-cognitive development than conceptions held by grade 2 children. Results also indicated there was no difference among accepted, rejected, and neglected children in their general intellectual abilities, as measured by the Vocabulary and Block Design subtests of the WISC-R. However, contrary to experimental predictions, when compared with their socially accepted classmates, rejected and neglected children did not show a developmental lag in their understanding of friendship. If the social effectiveness of social isolates from normal school populations is not limited by immature conceptions of interpersonal relations, as has been found in clinic populations, then intervention programs for these children may need to target other social-cognitive (e.g., interpersonal problem solving skills) or behavioral skills (e.g., prosocial behavior) or affective difficulties (e.g., social anxiety) as primary therapeutic goals. The possibility that an interpersonal reasoning enrichment component of a treatment package focusing on one or more of these other aspects of social competence needs to be empirically evaluated.

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