New grant: Children’s Reasoning about Peer Rejection based on Status

Many of us know how it felt to be “left out” in the playground at school, and the pain it can cause. But why do children decide to exclude each other from play? And what can we do to help children to include each other more?

Dr Harriet Tenenbaum has been awarded funding from the Leverhulme Trust to examine this issue in a 3-year project running from March 2014 – February 2017.

From the grant abstract:

Children frequently make decisions about whom to exclude from play based on social groups, such as ethnicity and gender. Unfortunately, such peer exclusion or rejection has harmful effects on children’s academic achievement and self-esteem.

Given the ubiquitous nature of peer exclusion and its negative consequences, we need to learn more about what considerations children weigh when deciding whether to exclude someone.

Work from cognitive domain theory has examined children’s reasoning about peer rejection based on group membership. This work has shown that children differentiate the context of exclusion (e.g., gender versus ethnicity). What is not known, however, is how social status (imbalance or asymmetry in power relations between groups) contributes to understanding exclusion. Moreover, little is known about how minority group members reason about other groups. We know that minority group members often view prejudice differently than do majority group members, and that prejudice reduction interventions are less effective for minority than majority group members.

Thus, we need to find ways of encouraging children, in both minority and majority groups, not to make decisions to exclude others on the basis of social status. The present projects focus on understanding children’s reasoning about exclusion based on social status and ways of decreasing such exclusion.

Dr Tenenbaum is co-leader of the Enhancing Thinking research stream in the School of Psychology, and is editor of the British Journal of Educational Psychology.