Classroom peer group acceptance and friendship: links to self-concept and sense of school belonging in a developmental context
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Two forms of classroom peer group relationships, group acceptance and friendship, were examined in terms of differential influences on self-concept and sense of school belonging among 258 second graders and 182 fifth graders. Sample groups reflected the Sullivinian juvenile and preadolescent stages. The use of sense of school belonging in this context was a new and exploratory use of this variable. Results suggested that classroom peer relationships were linked to both variables for second grade, but not fifth grade, students. For second graders, there was evidence of a significant association between group acceptance and self-concept, group acceptance and school belonging, and friendship and school belonging, although the strength of the relationships was weak. For fifth graders, there was not evidence of a significant association between either of the peer relationship variables and the outcome variables. Overall, the premise that classroom peer group acceptance and friendship would exert differential influences on self-concept and sense of school belonging was not supported. Results suggested that developmental differences, rather than a unique linkage with a particular type of peer relationship, appear to be the more important factor when considering sense of school belonging. Results are discussed in terms of the limitations of the study, possible alternate avenues for investigation, and implications for the selection of school-based interventions for children at-risk of being alienated at school.