Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

The Influence of Teachers' Preferences on Children's Social Status in Schools

Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

The Influence of Teachers' Preferences on Children's Social Status in Schools

Article excerpt


This study reconceptualizes and operationalizes peer status in elementary school classrooms by considering both teachers' and peers' preferences. Within this framework, a sample of 1411 students (Grades 1-6) in Hong Kong were classified into four types based on combinations of their peers' and teachers' preference scores: (1) popular stars-those liked by both peers and teachers; (2) teachers' pets-those liked by teachers but not by peers; (3) students' heroes-those liked by peers but not by teachers; and (4) rejected-those disliked by both peers and teachers. Results of MANOVA tests revealed significant differences among the four status groups in their leadership, aggression, social withdrawal, and academic performance. Path analyses showed both similarities and differences among the four status groups in terms of students' attributes and how they predicted teachers' and peers' preferences.

Keywords: peer popularity, teacher liking, classroom environment, prosocial behavior, aggression

1. Introduction

Existing research has shown that children who receive predominately positive nominations and few negative nominations from their peers are classified as "popular" (Kochel, Ladd, & Rudolph, 2012; Cillessen & Rose, 2005; Marks, Babcock, Cillessen, & Crick, 2013). However, in addition to contact and interaction with peers, children also form relationships with their classroom teachers which may be positive or negative depending on teachers' expectations for children's behavior (Davis & Lease, 2007). Thus, it seems reasonable to suggest that children's social status in the classroom would be related to both their peers' and teachers' preferences. Although in many studies teachers have rated children's behavior and nominated their friends (e.g., Chen, Huang, Wang, & Chang, 2012; Newcomb, Bukowski, & Pattee, 1993), rarely have both peers' and teachers' perspectives been considered when determining children's relative status within their peer group.

While teachers' preferences appear to play an important role in determining children's social status among peers (Birch & Ladd, 1997; Mercer & DeRosier, 2008; Moore, Shoulberg, & Murray-Close, 2012), this premise has not been empirically tested. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to re-conceptualize and operationalize peer status using both teachers' and peers' preferences to generate a two dimensional model with four possible social status categories. Our first objective was to profile students within each of these four different status groups in terms of their social behavior and academic performance. The second objective was to examine how children's academic performance and social behavior are related to teachers' and peers' preferences and how these relations may differ across the four status groups.

1.1 Extending Sociometrically-Derived Peer Statuses

Children's popularity has been defined by a high number of personal liking nominations (Newcomb et al., 1993). Although widely used, popularity inferred from peer preference nominations may not provide a full and valid representation of children's social status (Cillessen & Rose, 2005). Studies of Chinese elementary school children have shown that teachers have a direct impact on children's status through their influence on children's social reputations and peers' evaluations (Chang, 2003; Chang et al., 2007; Lu & Chang, 2013). Studies carried out in North America found that children whose behavior was consistent with their teachers' beliefs and expectations, were rated more positively by their peers than were children whose behavior was not endorsed or was negatively viewed by teachers (Hughes, Cavell, & Wilson, 2001; La Fontana & Cillessen, 2002). Other studies have shown that children use teachers' appraisals of their classmates as a reference point for determining acceptable behavior, and then they evaluate their peers accordingly (Bierman, 2011; Casiglia, Coco, & Zappulla, 1998; La Fontana & Cillessen, 2002). …

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