This study examined whether children who vary in their behavioral responses (aggression vs. withdrawal vs. problem solving) to ambiguous provocation but who are similar in their attributional processes differ in their social goals and self-efficacy perceptions. In response to 10 hypothetical situations involving ambiguous provocation, fourth- and fifth-grade students (n = 781) indicated whether or not the protagonist intended to cause the harm and reported how they would respond to the protagonist's action. Newly developed measures assessed children's situated social goals and self-efficacy perceptions. Results indicated that the aggressive, withdrawn, and problem-solving responders differed in their social goals and self-efficacy perceptions. The strength of the findings, compared to earlier work on children's goals and self-efficacy perceptions, suggests the importance of a situated social-cognitive assessment in which children's thoughts are measured in a specific kind of social situation and are related to their reported behavior in the same type of situation.
Little is known about the skills required for friendship, as distinct from those required for peer acceptance. The present study examined whether children's goals and strategies in friendship conflict situations are predictive of their friendship adjustment, after accounting for level of peer acceptance. Fourth- and 5th-grade children (N = 696) responded to 30 hypothetical situations in which they were having a conflict with a friend. Results indicated that children's goals were highly related to their strategies and that children's goals and strategies were predictive of their real-life friendship adjustment. Pursuing the goal of revenge toward a friend was the goal or strategy most strongly associated with lacking friends and having poor-quality friendships. Gender differences were also found for each goal and strategy, with girls displaying a more prosocial goal and strategy orientation than boys.
This study investigated whether the perception of self as socially rejected might contribute to increased physical aggression among elementary-school children. It was hypothesized that physically aggressive children would become more physically aggressive over time if they perceived that they were rejected and tended to blame peers for social failure experiences. Third-grade boys and girls (n = 941) were assessed in the Fall and Spring of the school year. Peer-report data on physical aggression and social preference were collected, along with self-report data on perceived rejection and attributions for social failure experiences. Results for boys were consistent with hypotheses, whereas the results for girls revealed a different pattern of relations. These results constitute prospective evidence that children's self-perceptions of social rejection can uniquely influence externalizing behavior. Results are discussed in terms of mechanisms that might mediate the relation between perceived rejection and physical aggression.
The present research tested whether children's responses to help-giving and help-seeking friendship tasks predicted how many friends they had and the quality of their best friendship. Fifth-grade children (N=511; typically 10 or 11 years old) responded to vignettes in which they could either give help to a friend or seek help from a friend. Children's strategies and goals in both contexts were significantly correlated with the number of friends children had. Responses in the help-giving context but not in the help-seeking context were significantly associated with friendship quality. Although gender differences in strategies and goals were found, strategies and goals were related to the number of friends and friendship quality for both boys and girls.
Previous studies have demonstrated that children's goals are associated with their success in peer relationships. The current study extends earlier findings by examining changes in children's goals during hypothetical conflicts. Participants were 252 children ages 9 to 12 years old (133 boys, 119 girls). As predicted, children's goals changed significantly when they encountered obstacles to conflict resolution, and these changes were predictive of their subsequent strategy choices. Both aggressive- and submissive-rejected children were more likely to evidence antisocial changes in their goals, including an increased desire to retaliate. They also showed reluctance to forego instrumental objectives. Other findings highlighted the need to investigate the combinations of goals children pursue as predictors of their strategies and the quality of their peer relationships.
In this study, the prevailing view that girls are pervasively more skilled in their friendships than boys was challenged by examining whether girls respond more negatively than boys when a friend violates core friendship expectations. Fourth- and fifth-grade children (n=267) responded to vignettes depicting transgressions involving a friend's betrayal, unreliability, or failure to provide support or help. Results indicated that girls were more troubled by the transgressions, more strongly endorsed various types of negative relationship interpretations of the friend's actions, and reported more anger and sadness than did boys. Girls also endorsed revenge goals and aggressive strategies just as much as boys. These findings lead to a more complex view of boys' and girls' friendship competencies. © 2011 The Authors. Child Development © 2011 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.
Residential college environments provide young people with distinctive relationship opportunities and challenges. A major purpose of the present study was to learn whether college students respond differently to conflict-of-interest vignettes in three different relationship contexts. Students were more likely to make negative interpretations about their romantic partner's behavior than they did about their friend's or roommate's behavior. They were also more likely to feel angry and hurt and to endorse hostile goals and strategies with romantic partners. A second major purpose was to learn about the types of interpretations and emotions associated with revenge goals in conflict-of-interest situations. Results indicated that interpreting the other person's actions as disrespectful and as rejecting was related to revenge goals and also predicted to revenge goals beyond the contributions of anger and hurt feelings. © 2012 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.