Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Elementary Children's School Friendship: A Comparison of Peer Assessment Methodologies. (General Articles)

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Elementary Children's School Friendship: A Comparison of Peer Assessment Methodologies. (General Articles)

Article excerpt

Abstract. This study compared four methods of assessing children's friendshipspeer nominations, peer ratings, reciprocal peer nominations, and social networking. A total of 174 children between first and third grades were assessed using child self-report. In addition, parent and teacher ratings of these children's friendship patterns were also evaluated. Results found that there was high agreement between reciprocal peer nominations, peer ratings, and the social networking procedure. Much lower levels of agreement were noted between peer nominations in general and reciprocated nomination procedures. Parents and teachers were found to have comparable levels of agreement but did not match exactly the child-reported reciprocal nomination procedure. Implications of these results for use by school psychologists are discussed.

One of the key indicators of the development of social competency in children is the development of friendships. Friends are a source of stable companionship that play an important role in today's family structure where influences outside of the family have great saliency for children and adolescents (Asher, 1990; Wasserstein & LaGreca, 1996). In addition, evidence that a child has friends in the school setting is important in understanding the nature of a child's overall social adjustment (Bukowski, Newcomb, & Hartup, 1996; Ladd, 1990; Ladd & Price, 1987). Hartup (1989, 1995, 1996), one of the most influential writers and researchers in the area of children's friendship, asserts children's friendships can help development in at least three areas by: (a) providing a context for social learning, (b) serving as resources for emotional support and security, and (c) functioning as precursors for later relationships in adulthood.

A number of child self-report methodologies have emerged to assess friendship development in children. Some researchers (e.g., La Greca, 1990) have raised concerns regarding the use of ratings and nominations to assess peer relations in children due to the need to have an intact peer group and because a child's social competence may change in different settings (e.g., home and school). However, researchers have continued to use child self-report in schools as a primary mechanism to evaluate friendship patterns. Specifically, peer nominations, peer ratings, reciprocal nominations (Bukowski & Hoza, 1989; Furman, 1996; Howes, 1990), and social networks (Farmer & Cairns, 1991; Farmer, Stuart, Lorch, & Fields, 1993) have been used as ways to assess the friendships of children.

The peer nomination procedure asks children to choose a limited number of peers on a specific dimension(s). Usually, nominations are made as the child's best friends or individuals with whom they like to play (McConnell & Odom, 1986). Children are usually given a listing of all others in the group (Ray, Cohen, & Secrist, 1995; Shapiro, 1987) or a picture of the class (Yugar & Shapiro, 1996) to be sure that children do not fail to nominate a peer simply due to forgetting who is in the class.

Both positive nominations (i.e., like most) and negative nominations (i.e., like least) can be obtained with scores from this measure providing information about children who are liked, disliked, neglected, and controversial (Coie, Dodge, & Coppotelli, 1982). Nominations, however, have been conceptualized in the literature as providing information about the popularity of children, rather than their friendships (Furman, 1996). In particular, the use of peer nominations alone to assess friendship is limited because the degree to which the child's nomination is reciprocated by peers is unknown. Although it is useful to find out what children think about their peers, one cannot be sure if their peers feel the same way about them. Additionally, obtaining permission to collect negative nominations is often difficult. Parents and teachers believe that asking a child to indicate which of their peers are not liked may lead to conflict such as teasing others in nonclassroom settings (e. …

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