Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

Experiences of Being Ignored by Peers during Late Adolescence: Linkages to Psychological Maladjustment

Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

Experiences of Being Ignored by Peers during Late Adolescence: Linkages to Psychological Maladjustment

Article excerpt

In this study on being ignored by peers, 934 twelfth-grade students reported on their experiences of being ignored, victimized, and socially withdrawn, and completed measures of friendship and psychological adjustment (depression, self-esteem, and global satisfaction). Peer nominations of being ignored, victimized, and accepted by peers were also collected. Self-reports and peer reports of being ignored were associated with the psychological outcomes, after accounting for other peer experiences and social withdrawal. The associations between the ignore variables and certain outcomes were weaker for adolescents who were highly accepted, made many friendship nominations, and received many friendship nominations. Results suggest that being ignored by schoolmates may represent a specific understudied negative group-level peer difficulty that poses significant and unique psychological risk during late adolescence.

Negative group-level peer experiences place children and adolescents at risk for psychological distress, as well as internalizing and externalizing problems (e.g., Espelage, Low, & De La Rue, 2012; Gooren, van Lier, Stegge, Terwogt, & Koot, 2011; Rudolph, Troop-Gordon, Hessel, & Schmidt, 2011). There is also strong evidence that these negative peer experiences during childhood and adolescence are associated with increased risk for psychological difficulties in adulthood (Bagwell, Newcomb, & Bukowski, 1998; Gladstone, Parker, & Malhi, 2006). To date, however, much of the research has focused on the psychological correlates and consequences of peer rejection (i.e., being actively disliked) and peer victimization (i.e., physical or relational peer abuse), and research on experiences of being ignored by peers is lacking. Because being actively ignored by peers may represent a distinct and more specific group-level peer experience that places youth at risk for maladjustment outcomes, the present study examines the psychological correlates of being ignored by peers during late adolescence, after accounting for other types of negative group-level peer experiences and related behavior.

Experiences of Being Ignored by Peers

The voluminous research on peer rejection and peer victimization has greatly contributed to our understanding of how group-level peer difficulties during childhood and adolescence can place youth at risk for psychological maladaptation, as well as behavioral and social difficulties (Rubin, Bukowski, & Parker, 2006). Yet, research for the most part has not focused on negative experiences with peers that involve a lack of or limited attention. Specifically, the majority of past research has not considered experiences of receiving little attention from the peer group due to being ignored, which occurs when others refuse to recognize or take notice of another (Oxford English Dictionary, 1989). We contend, however, that experiences of receiving little attention from peers due to being ignored may have the unique potential to undermine psychological health and well-being, particularly during adolescence, when being noticed by peers and involved in social interactions become increasingly important to feelings of self-worth and increasingly influential on adjustment (LaFontana & Cillessen, 2010). In fact, the developmental impact of being ignored by peers may be the greatest during middle and late adolescence, and particularly towards the end of the high school years, because this is when being recognized by and having positive relationships with peers sets the stage for adult patterns of social relationships (Fuligni, Eccles, Barber, & Clements, 2001).

We were not able to locate a single study that focused narrowly on the experience of being ignored. However, a small empirical base of studies has considered experiences of being ignored plus other peer experiences. These past investigations can be separated into four categories: those that assessed (a) ostracism, which has been defined as intentional ignoring and exclusion of an individual by a group or an individual (e. …

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