Understanding the excluder : why young children exclude their peers




Fanger, Suzanne Marie

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The present study attempts to further our understanding of peer exclusion in young children’s social interactions by answering the question, “What are the motivating factors behind children’s usage of exclusion.” Exclusion is very common amongst young children (Corsaro, 1985; Fanger, Frankel & Hazen, 2012), but can also cause harm to the victims (Juvonen & Gross, 2005; MacDonald, Kingsbury & Shaw, 2005). This study used modified grounded theory to examine data collected on the exclusionary behavior of 43 children (mean age 61 months). Extensive data on all incidents of peer exclusion occurring amongst the children, including audio recordings, as well as interviews on children’s relationships and social status were used. Results indicated that some exclusion is perpetrated by a particular child if they want be in control of a social situation or to help them be powerful or high status. An entirely different type of exclusion is the exclusionary behavior that occurs for social reasons; either to help a friendship or to support a group identity. Exclusion is sometimes simply the result of the particular context surrounding the interaction: either some aspect of the children’s school environment leads to exclusion, the exclusion has become an ongoing pattern for the children or the exclusion is perpetrated to protect the children’s play. Exclusion is also sometimes the result of the excludee’s behavior—either something they did immediately prior to the incident caused them to be excluded or the way they behave, in general, contributes to them being a target of exclusion. Finally, it appears that the overall social culture of a particular classroom or specific peer group can, itself, contribute to the frequency with which children use exclusion. Typically, exclusion occurs for a combination of these reasons and only rarely does an incident of exclusion have only one cause. Implications of these findings for future research as well as practical applications and interventions are discussed.



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