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Aggression and Peer-Rejected Children

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I am doing a paper on aggression and peer rejected children. Any information that you can offer will be greatly appreciated. It needs to include both research and theory, as well as possible interventions. The paper is to be from 5-7 pages in APA style. I have to draw on at least 7 sources. Thanks.

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This solution provides research, theory and intervention information on the topic--aggression and peer rejected children. At least 7 sources are provided.

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I have located an excellent article by Mounts (1997) which will be a good starting place. There are many references listed as well. I located a second article which is also include below (Dumas, Neese, Prinz & Blechman, 1996).


Aggression and Peer-Rejected Children
Nina S. Mounts, Ph.D., The Ohio State University
Human Development and Family Life Bulletin
A Review of Research and Practice
Volume 3, Issue 2, Summer 1997


Peer relationships are important for young children and increase in importance as children grow older. Because many children are from single-parent homes or homes in which both parents work, the amount of time children spend in the company of peers is greater than ever. For children who spend a significant amount of time with peers, rejection by peers is a significant event.

Children who lack friendships or who have difficulty with peer relationships miss out on their many benefits. Friends provide companionship and support each other in times of stress, such as during parental divorce or when they are having trouble in school. Friends are a source of fun and stimulating recreational activities; they are loyal allies during tough interactions on the playground or in the locker room; and they are confidants and holders of secrets. Because peer relationships benefit children immensely, practitioners and researchers are interested in understanding the processes by which peers reject certain children and developing interventions for children who lack friends.


To assess peer relationships, researchers give children two class rosters and ask them to circle the names of three classmates with whom they like to play and three with whom they do not like to play. Children who are "rejected" by their peers receive a high number of votes from classmates who do not like to play with them and a low number of votes from children who like to play with them. Peers do not just ignore these children, they actively dislike them.

When classmates reject a peer during one school year, they will likely reject that same child in subsequent school years. Many peer-rejected children display high levels of verbally and physically aggressive behavior toward their peers, are disruptive, and are frequently off task in the classroom. These characteristics increase the likelihood of children being peer rejected throughout their lives.

Several negative impacts are associated with peer rejection. Rejected children report more loneliness than other children (Asher, Hymel, & Renshaw, 1984); they also report higher levels of depression than other children (Vosk, Forehand, Parker, & Rickard, 1982). Cowen and his colleagues (1973) followed first and third graders for more than a decade and found that unpopularity in early grade school was the strongest predictor of adult psychiatric treatment. Interestingly, 48 percent of the peer-rejected sixth graders that Asher (1988) surveyed indicated that they would be interested in receiving help in improving their peer relationships.

Because aggression is a common characteristic of peer-rejected children, I will focus primarily on aggressive peer-rejected children in the remainder of this article.


Classmates rate approximately one-third of all peer-rejected children as highly aggressive. Aggressive peer-rejected children think about peer interactions dramatically differently than do other children (Crick & Dodge, 1996). These children usually demonstrate either reactive or proactive thinking, but not both.

Children who think reactively evaluate ambiguous social situations as negatively directed toward them and react to these situations with aggression. For example, if a child walks by and knocks a milk carton off the tray of an aggressive child, the aggressive child will interpret this event as a threat and respond aggressively. In contrast, more popular children would tend to give the milk spiller the benefit of the doubt, assuming the incident was an accident.

Children who think proactively believe that aggression is a legitimate means of getting what they want in social interactions. These children typically view aggression more positively than other children and find it helps them reach their goals. Because most children give in when another child is aggressive, this mistaken value is reinforced. Because these children do not seem to place as a high a value on maintaining social relationships as other children do, they have fewer reasons to avoid behaving aggressively toward their peers. As I will discuss later, the cognitive processes behind each of these two types of aggression differ; therefore, the recommended interventions for each also differ.


Early intervention efforts focused on increasing the positive social skills of peer-rejected children. In creating their social skills coaching program, Asher and Oden (1977) hypothesized that an increase in positive behaviors would lead to decreases in aggressive behaviors. By focusing on and substituting prosocial behaviors for negative behaviors, negative behaviors in these children would gradually decrease.

In Asher and Oden's program, coaches teach children how to participate, cooperate, communicate, and validate. The peer-rejected children implement these skills by smiling at, looking at, or encouraging other children. The peer-rejected children and the coach also discuss the differences between participation and nonparticipation.

After discussing the above skills, the coach pairs a peer-rejected child with a classmate of average social skills. The coach asks the children to play a short game using the skills they have learned. The coach also asks the children if using the skills "makes the game more fun." The coach then reinforces the children after the play session for using the desired social skills.

Not every peer-rejected child benefits from coaching, but a number of children do acquire positive social skills--particularly those children who previously had few prosocial skills. Although coaching may increase positive social interaction, it does not necessarily eliminate all aggressive behaviors. Practitioners and researchers believe that some children need more direct intervention to curb their aggressive behaviors.

Strategies for decreasing aggressive behavior in children fall into two groups. The strategies focus on intervening with either the reactively or proactively aggressive child, as discussed earlier (Coie & Koeppl, 1990).

To eliminate proactive aggression, reinforcement contingencies must change. Because children spend most of their time with parents who tend to reinforce the proactive aggression, interventions must focus on the parents and children. When parents are inconsistent in punishing aggressive behaviors, or do not punish their children for behaving aggressively, children learn that the aggressive behavior will get them what they want. Parents must learn to reward and reinforce nonaggressive behaviors.

Gerald Patterson and his colleagues at the Oregon Social Learning Lab have been leaders in developing this type of intervention. Parents in Patterson's program learn how to break their established cycle of reinforcing aggressive behavior. For example, parents learn to isolate a child who is behaving aggressively by putting him or her in "time out." In this way, the child is not positively reinforced for his or her negative behavior. Parents also learn to recognize and reinforce positive social behavior. Patterson and his colleagues (1982) report a 63-percent reduction in aggressive behavior for children who participate in this program, versus a 17-percent reduction in aggressive behavior for children who participate in more conventional programs. ...

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