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Article Critique Essay

The thought that peer exclusion is correlated with children’s classroom achievements and adjustment has been hypothesized since the 1930’s. Much research and empirical evidence for such hypotheses have since been collected, and seem to agree with the premise of the correlation. Peer acceptance is the main measurement of this study. In contrast with other types of peer relationships, peer group acceptance, or rejection, is strongly connected with academic readiness and achievement.

This article focuses on peer sentiments and its effect on children’s adjustment. It differs from past studies in that its approach is to measure non-observable feelings about classmates, rather than only the observable interactions. The article begins by outlining past research, and developing a premise for the study from those previous studies. The main study that this research builds upon is that of a 2001 study by Eric S. Buhs and Gary W. Ladd, who also conduct this study along with Sarah L. Herald.

The premise of the study, based on the 2001 study, is that once classmates express negative feelings and actions upon a peer, those feelings and actions act as a visible marker for further rejection by the larger peer group, and the rejected child as well; as a result, the rejected peers are flagged by their peers, and are left out of classroom interactions, and as a consequence, the rejected child’s learning is impacted ultimately leading to lower levels of achievement (Buhs, Ladd, and Herald, 2006, p. 2).

The prior 2001 study found that “early peer rejection was negatively related to later achievement and that this association was partially mediated through peer maltreatment and declining classroom participation, respectively” (Buhs et al. , 2006, p. 2). The authors developed a hypothesis that built upon their previous study. Their hypothesis was stated as, “it was hypothesized that prolonged peer maltreatment increases the probability that children will disengage from classrooms (or the school context) and that increasing disengagement impairs children’s achievement.

Thus, it was predicted that longer rather than shorter histories of peer maltreatment, after controlling for contemporary exclusion or abuse, would mediate the link between early peer rejection and later classroom disengagement” (Buhs et al. , 2006, p. 3). The authors further state that their purpose for conducting this study was to bridge the gap between the limitations of the previous study (it was only a one year study that attempted to predict students future outcomes) by conducting a more comprehensive longitudinal study over a six year period (kindergarten through fifth grade).


The research study constructed six variables to measure the children with. They include, peer group acceptance/rejection, peer exclusion, peer abuse, classroom participation, school avoidance, and achievement. Peer group acceptance/rejection was conceptualized to mean “the extent to which individuals were liked/ disliked by classroom peers,” and operationalized by sociometric ratings that were collected from peers during kindergarten. One problem with this operationalization is the ability to comprehensively scale the true feelings of one peer toward another, especially during younger years.

Scales, questionnaires, and observations might be too incomplete to capture the true meaning behind the dynamics of peer to peer interactions. Another issue is of how to evaluate separate peer groups. Many times classrooms encompass only a selection of developed peer groupings throughout the grade, and might be unfairly balanced toward one group. An example of groupings would be defined by the terms, “popular,” “punk,” or “nerds. ” The research might be biased toward one group, if only because they were over represented in a class room.

The variable Peer Exclusion was conceptualized as “the extent to which children were the target of peers’ nonaggressive rejecting behaviors, including behaviors such as ignoring, avoiding, or refusing to associate with them in the classroom context” (Buhs et al. , 2006, p. 3). The Variable Peer Abuse—the second form of peer mistreatment—was conceptualized to mean “the extent to which children were recipients of classmate’s aggressive and harassing behaviors” (Buhs et al. , 2006, p. 3). These two variables contained indicators to distinguish between chronic peer abuse, and situational peer abuse.

Again, the issue that arises is the effectiveness of these measures. The interactions between childhood peers are complex, and can change daily. The variables Classroom Participation, and School Avoidance were used to measure disengagement from the classroom environment. A large issue with this is how to distinguish individuals who might be avoiding class as an outcome of separate circumstances. If poor participation and avoidance was only observed from the angle of peer interactions, then this view is biased toward the study.

The study is seeking a correlation, and if outside factors aren’t controlled for, then they will biasly effect the results of their study. A child’s family life, neighborhood, economic status, innate ability, among other factors, could influence all of the variables that this study examines. The last variable, Achievement, was defined as “the accuracy with which children could solve progressively more advanced reading, mathematics, and spelling problems on an individualized achievement test” (Buhs et al. , 2006, p. 4).

The issue that comes to mind with this variable is the way it uses tests to gauge “achievement”. Some students fare better on tests than others, while some students take time to develop adequate test taking skills. Another problem is how to control for separate curriculums in different classrooms, and the quality of what is being taught.

Data (From the text) Buhs et al. , 2006, p. 5 Participants The data used in this investigation were gathered from a total sample of 380 children (190 girls These children were followed longitudinally from age 5 (kindergarten) to age 11 (fifth grade31 kindergarten class rooms across 10 schools, and by the fifth-grade data collection period, children were in 162 different classrooms across 32 schools.

The sample contained nearly equal proportions of families from urban, suburban, or rural midwestern communities, and the sample’s ethnic composition was 17. 4% African American, 77. 1% Caucasian, 1. 6% Hispanic, and 3. 9% “other. ” Family incomes were distributed as follows: 10. 9% of the sample reported total household incomes from $0 to $10,000, 10. 9% reported incomes from $10,000 to $20,000, 12.

6% reported incomes from $20,000 to $30,000, 12. 6% from $30,000 to $40,000, 12. 9% from $40,000 to $50,000, and 40. 3% reported incomes above $50,000. Results The study reports it’s results as, “peer group rejection is predictive of a range of chronic, negative peer behaviors that may alter both the social environment of the classroom and children’s adaptive responses within that context across the elementary school years. ” (Buhs et al. , 2006, p. 11). It suggests that the facet of peer exclusion leading to reduced participation, and ultimately delayed achievements needs further study.

It goes on to say that with further study, and thus more knowledge, an empirically based intervention program can be developed. Conclusion It can be argued that to have a complete understanding of the ever evolving and complex world of the social interactions in a school environment is close to impossible. The authors came into their study with a set premise, and expectations of the outcomes, and have seemed to found what they were searching for. The question becomes, how valid are the author’s findings, and can they be applied in a general manner across learning environments.

I believe studies that look at complex interactions between children over several years, such as this study, might have too many outside interactionary forces that could effect the data and results. Works Cited Buhs, Eric S. , Ladd, Gary W. , and Herald, Sarah L. (2006). Peer Exclusion and Victimization: Processes That Mediate the Relation Between Peer Group Rejection and Children’s Classroom Engagement and Achievement?. journal of Educational Psychology 2006, Vol. 98, No. 1, 1–13.

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