Socioeconomic status is a powerful agent in creating the cultural environment in which individuals are reared. According to Gollnick and Chinn (1998), the cultural environment provides processes through which expectations are learned about such roles as mother, husband, student, teacher, banker, plumber, or politician. Culturally bound experiences become the lens through which others' performances, behaviors, beliefs, and appearance are judged. They are guidelines used to formulate values, perceptions, and beliefs about concepts such as family, loyalty, honesty, pride, love of country, what is moral or immoral, prestige, and status. Cumulative experiences in a cultural environment guide the way individuals think, feel, and act. Ultimately, an individual's experience repertoire is an anchor to new social, emotional, and cognitive learning episodes and the basis for the degree of effort applied in learning new tasks.
Weinger (2000) found that by age five, low- and middle-income children's assessments and prejudices about wealth were firmly fixed. Furthermore, Brantlinger (1991) found that low-income adolescents' perception about wealth resulted in more negative descriptions of low-income groups than of high-income groups. Low-income adolescents were also reluctant to identify with low-status groups. In a related study (Tarrant (2002) found that adolescents assigned higher ratings to members of the "in-group" than to members of the "out-group" regardless of circumstance. Lott (2002) found that the main response toward poor people by those who are not poor is one of distancing. Distancing is suggested as one of several factors in operationally defining discrimination. In sum, the results of these studies show the influence of socioeconomic background on an individual's perceptions of others and the role it plays in determining the degree of interaction desired with individuals from differing income groups.
Studies have also shown relationships between socioeconomic status and characteristics such as intelligence (Terman, Baldwin, & Bronson, 1925) academic achievement (Brown, 1990; Caldas & Bankston, 1997), test performance (Stricker & Rock, 1995), language development (Gonzalez, 2001), educational expectations (Trusty, 1999), the formation of social group networks (Bagwell, Coie, Terry, & Lochman, 2000), to name a few. In short, there is overwhelming evidence that socioeconomic status impacts quality of students' social and cognitive development, decisions they make, and ultimately, the quality of task performance.
When groups are formed, research points out that students associate themselves with peers that have comparable characteristics such as academic skills (Schwarzwald & Hoffman, 1993; Wentzel & Caldwell, 1997), social and interpersonal skills (Akers, Jones, & Coyl, 1998; Farmer & Farmer, 1996; Urberg, Degirmencioglu, Tolson, 1998; Werner,& Parmelee, 1979), and common interests (Kindermann, 1993; Serreno, 1980). Peer groups play a critical psychosocial role for students by providing a valuable network through which identity and self-esteem are developed (Newman & Newman, 1976). The peer group can be a source of emotional support during emotional and cognitive adjustment (Jackson & Bosma, 1992; Palmonari, Pombeni, & Kirchler, 1990) and have a positive effect on a group member's well being (Brown & Lohr, 1987). In addition, peer groups influence its members' social behavior, attitudes, and academic adjustment (Adler & Adler, 1995; Heiman, 2000). In short, the peer group is an essential avenue that assists individuals' social development.
Because peer groups are formed on the basis of common criteria, it may be difficult for students with atypical characteristics, such as learning disabilities, to be accepted by existing peer groups. To date, research on social status of adolescents with LD indicates that these students do not fare well in mainstream settings (Bender, 1987; Ferguson, 1999; Hendrickson, Shokoohi-Yekta, Hamre-Nietupski, & Gable, 1996; Perlmutter, Crocker, Dordray, & Garstecki, 1983). …