Relations between children's social status and self-perceptions of both academic and social competence

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Powdrill, Lorrie Ann

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This study examined the relation between first grade children’s social status and their perceptions of competence in academic and social domains. Researchers have delineated five broad status categories--average, popular, rejected, neglected, and controversial (Coie, Dodge, & Coppotelli, 1982). Peer rejection has been linked with a variety of negative social and educational outcomes, including aggression (Dodge at al., 2003), low achievement (Wentzel & Asher, 1995), and school attrition (Vosk, Forehand, Parker, & Richard, 1982). Peer neglect has been studied less frequently, and findings have yielded contradictory results. Some studies indicate that neglected children may be at-risk for social and educational problems (Kupersmidt & Patterson, 1991), while other studies suggest that neglected children may be high achieving students (Wentzel & Asher, 1995). Little research has examined peer rejection and peer neglect as they relate to children’s thoughts about school, primarily because many researchers find that young children are unduly optimistic about their abilities (Stipek & Tannat, 1984). This study addressed two central research questions: 1) Do status groups differ in their perceptions of both academic and social competence?; and 2) Are children’s perceptions related to their teacher’s assessments of their academic and social competence? Participants were 101 first grade students who were interviewed individually at their schools. They answered surveys about general academic and social competence, as well as domain specific surveys about their perceived reading competence and social responsibility. Children’s classroom teachers also completed written surveys addressing children’s general academic and social competence. Analyses indicated that the status groups did not differ in their self-perceptions for the general measures. Results for the domain specific academic measure revealed that rejected children rated themselves less positively than popular and neglected children for reading competence and reading difficulty. Rejected children also rated themselves less positively than popular children for compliance behaviors. It was also found that Neglected children were indistinguishable from the popular status for all academic and social measures. Pearson correlation methods revealed that teacher assessments of student’s social and academic competence were not related to children’s self-perceptions. Implications for research and practice are discussed.