A Comparison of Aggressive-Rejected and Nonaggressive-Rejected Children's Interpretations of Self-Directed and Other-Directed Rejection Audrey

L. Zakriski and John D. Coie
Duke University and COIE, JOHN D. A Comparison of Aggressive-Rejected and Nonaggressive-Rejected Children's Interpretations of Self-Directed and Other-Directed Rejection. CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 1996,67,1048-1070. The hypothesis that aggressive-rejected children are unaware of their social status because they are self-protective when processing negative peer feedback was tested in 3 studies. In Study 1, fourth-grade girls and boys were asked to name peers they liked or disliked, as well as peers they thought liked or disliked them. Gomparisons of aggressiverejected, nonaggressive-rejected, and average status groups revealed that aggressive-rejected children were more unrealistic in their assessments of their social status than were nonaggressive-rejected children. In Study 2, rejected and average boys identified in Study 1 were asked to name who they thought liked or disliked other children from their classroom. Gomparisons of perceived and actual nominations for peers revealed that aggressive-rejected children were able to assess the social status of others as well as did nonaggressive-rejected and average status children. Because the difficulties aggressive-rejected children demonstrated in Study 1 did not generalize to judging the status of others in Study 2, the self-protective hypothesis was supported. Study 3 provided a parallel test of this hypothesis under more controlled conditions. Subjects from Study 2 viewed other children receiving rejection feedback from peers in videotaped interactions and received similar feedback themselves from experimental confederates. Whiie all subjects rated self-directed feedback somewhat more positively than other-directed feedback, aggressive-rejected subjects had the largest self-favoring discrepancy between their judgments of self- and other-directed feedback. Thesefindingsalso suggest that aggressive-rejected children may make self-protective "errors" when judging other children's negative feelings about them. Ethnicity differences in evaluating peer feedback emerged in Studies 1 and 3, raising questions about the impact of minority status on children's evaluations of rejection feedback.

The search for the causes of childhood peer rejection has led to an important distinction between children who seem to be rejected because of excessive aggressiveness and those who are not overly aggressive (French, 1988). Some of this latter group are thought to be socially withdrawn and anxious (Rubin, LeMare, & Lollis, 1990), but it is likely that there are several other reasons for rejection in this group. There is evidence suggesting these two different subgroups are at risk for different negative outcomes: Aggression-related rejection is more stable (Cillessen, van IJzendoorn, van Lieshout, & Hartup, 1992) and is more closely linked to delinquency and school drop-out than non-

aggressive-rejection (Cole, Lochman, Terry, & Hyman, 1992). Nonaggressive-rejection is less stable (Cillessen et al., 1992) and may be more closely linked to depression (Boivin, Poulin, & Vitaro, 1994; Hymel, Rubin, Rowden, & LeMare, 1990; Rubin et al., 1990). It is also becoming increasingly clear that these subgroups of rejected children do not experience their rejection in the same way. For example, nonaggressive-rejected children, defined as either high on submissiveness or high on social isolation and shyness, report greater feelings of loneliness, have lower self-esteem, and are more likely

This work was supported.by grants (nos. 1 F31 MH10393-01 and 383-4745-7324) from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Lowenstein Genter for Disruptive Behavior Disorders awarded to the first author. We are grateful to Kristen Thompson for her help with data collection and to Jack G. Wright for his helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. Portions of this research were presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Ghild Development, New Orleans. Gorrespondence should be addressed to Audrey L. Zakriski, Bradley Hospital, 1011 Veterans Memorial Parkway, East Providence, RI 02915.
[Child Development, 1996,67,1048-1070. © 1996 by the Society for Research in Child Development, Inc. All rights reserved. 0009-3920/96/6703-0008$01.001

Zakriski and Coie 1049
than average status children or aggressiverejected children to refer themselves for help with their peer relations. Aggressiverejected children, on the other hand, do not differ from average status children in selfreported loneliness. They report at least average levels of self-esteem and are unlikely to refer themselves for help with their peer relations (Asher, Zelis, Parker, & Bruene, 1991; Boivin, Thomassin, & Alain, 1989; Boivin, Vitaro, & Tremblay, 1989; Parkhurst & Asher, 1992). Aggressive-rejected children also rate themselves higher than average status children on more self-concept dimensions than do nonaggressive-rejected children, defined either as high on passive withdrawal and shyness or simply as nonaggressive (Boivin, Thomassin, & Alain, 1989; Hymel, Bowker, & Woody, 1993; Patterson, Kupersmidt, & Griesler, 1990). This pattem of findings suggests that aggressive- and nonaggressive-rejected children might differ in their awareness of their own rejection. Aggressive-rejected children appear to be unaware of the extent to which they are rejected by their peers, whereas nonaggressive-rejected children appear to be quite aware of the extent to which they are rejected. This proposed difference in status awareness is important because it provides a potential link to the outcome differences associated with aggressive- and nonaggressive-rejection. One developmental model of the connection between nonaggressive peer rejection and internalizing problems involves the mediating role of self-concept and self-esteem (Rubin et al., 1990). This model suggests that awareness of negative peer status is a necessary condition for lowered selfesteem. The greater risk of extemalizing problems among aggressive-rejected children and their greater tendency to be chronically rejected than nonaggressive-rejected children may be related to their proposed status awareness deficits. Lack of awareness of their peer rejection would make these children less likely to attempt to correct their own behavior, thus leading them fe repeat the maladaptive interactions that originally caused, them to be disliked by peers. This same social insensitivity may render them less likely to benefit from social skills interventions because they are not motivated to change. Indirect evidence for rejected subgroup differences in social status awareness has been obtained by researchers utilizing the social acceptance subscale of the Perceived Competence Scale (Harter, 1982) and the peer relations subscale of the SelfDescription Questionnaire (Marsh, Smith, & Barnes, 1983). The results of several of these studies suggest that aggressive-rejected children overestimate their social competence while nonaggressive-rejected children do not (Boivin, Cote, & Dion, 1991; Boivin, Vitaro, & Tremblay, 1989; Hymel et al., 1993). Although it bears on the question of subgroup differences in self-perceptions of peer status, this evidence can only be considered indirect for two reasons. First, these perceived social competence subscales confound the assessment of classroom status awareness with loneliness and subjects' general beliefs about their own likability. Also, they do not permit a precise comparison between perceived social status and actual social status, because sociometric measures not only have different content than these subscales, but utilize a different metric in their response format. More direct evidence of subgroup differences in social status awareness comes from a study by Cillessen et al. (1992) in which subgroups of rejected boys were asked to rate how much they thought they were liked by peers. They found that as a group, aggressive-rejected boys expected themselves to be less rejected than shy-rejected boys, when in fact they were more rejected. Taken together, these studies support the hypothesis that aggressive-rejected and nonaggressive-rejected children, particularly withdrawn-rejected children, differ in their levels of rejection awareness, with nonaggressive-rejected children being more self-aware than aggressive-rejected children. The three studies described in this article conduct a more precise test of this hypothesis and explore several possible explanations for such group differences. In the first study, subgroups of rejected children are compared to each other and to average status children on the accuracy of their selfperceptions of peer status. In contrast to the study by Cillessen et al. (1992), in which comparisons were assessed only on peer liking measures, measures of peer liking and disliking were included and accuracy was assessed at two levels. The first level was group-based expectations, the procedure employed by Cillessen et al., and involved comparing subject groups' niean estimates of the number of peers who liked or disliked them. The second level compared individual subjects' expected liking scores with their actual liking scores through the use of


Child Development Study 1: Assessment of Self

a difference score. This procedure provides an accuracy score for each individual subject and addresses our hypothesis more directly. In the second study, subgroups were compared on the accuracy of their assessments of the social status of classmates. A subset of specific peers was identified as the target of these judgments, and accuracy in status attributions was contrasted across rejected subgroups and average status children. If subgroup differences in the accuracy of perceptions of other children's peer status matched differences in the accuracy of selfperceptions, then a case could be made for generalized deficits in the reading of social cues about liking or disliking. The third study was designed to assess children's accuracy in reading actual peer feedback about liking and disliking. Subjects first observed videotapes of children playing a game together and then made judgments as to how much each liked or disliked the other, based on comments they heard and interactions they observed. Next, they played the same game with a confederate who expressed feedback identical to the feedback seen on the videotape. Subjects were then asked to rate how much the confederate liked them as a way of comparing subjects' abilities to read cues directed at themselves with their abilities to read the same cues directed at other people. Because it is important not to assume that children of different ethnic backgrounds judge information about their social worlds in the same way, both African-American and Caucasian subjects were included in this series of studies. Previous research on loneliness, social goals and expectations, selfconcept, and status awareness did not provide us with any specific hypotheses about ethnicity differences in classroom status awareness. Research on sociometric nominating patterns in mixed-ethnicity elementary school settings suggests that children in the minority are less favorably evaluated (Singleton & Asher, 1977), and that social preference ratings in these situations may be influenced by ethnic group preference as well as social behavior (Kupersmidt & Coie, 1990; Lochman & Wayland, 1994). This may result in ostensibly less accurate status awareness among minority children in these settings, because the task of assessing who likes them is a more complicated one involving the assessment of both actual liking/disliking and hidden prejudices.

Subjects Parent permission to participate in classroom sociometrics was solicited from 826 children in the fourth grade at eight public elementary schools in a southeastern school system serving urban and suburban areas. Children of this age were selected for several reasons. Krantz and Burton (1985) found that perceptions of peers' status were fairly accurate by first grade and remained stable through third grade, while accurate self-perceptions of status were delayed until third grade. Because of this developmental pattern, we chose to study children in the second half of their fourth-grade year to ensure that the majority of our subjects would be able to perform the task. Second, by the age of 9 or 10, peer social status appears to be relatively stable (Coie & Dodge, 1983). This is important because children were asked to assess their own social status, and asking them to assess an unstable parameter might result in apparent inaccuracy that was not necessarily due to social judgment deficits. Written parental consent was received for 621 children (75% consent rate). The sample was 58% Caucasian, 37% AfricanAmerican, and 5% of other ethnic origin. Because of their small numbers, we eliminated children as subjects who were not classified as African-American or Caucasian. However, we included these children's nominations when calculating social status and aggression scores because the children were part of the peer group. Fifty-two percent of this remaining sample of 591 were female and 48% were male. The average age ofthe subjects was 10.3 years (SD = .56). Data on parental SES and occupation were not collected on this sample. However, data collected on an older, but otherwise comparable, sample of 114 aggressive and nonaggressive boys from the same school system revealed that subjects were primarily from lower-middle- to middle-class homes with the following distribution of parental occupations: professional or managerial jobs (29%); semiprofessional (29%); and skilled, semiskilled, or unskilled workers (42%) (Lochman & Wayland, 1994). Procedure Sociometric questionnaires were group administered in 33 classrooms late in the spring semester. Children received a packet

Zakriski and Coie
containing roster lists of all children in their grade. They also received a questionnaire including actual status, perceived status, and aggression items, as well as four other social behavior and social network items. Two research assistants administered the sociometric measures. Afler an item was read to the class, children were asked to check the names of all students who fit this description and then to circle the names of three children who best fit the description. Children voted first on all peers in their classroom and then on the rest of the peers in their grade. Measures In addition to the questions "Who do you like most?" (actual liking) and "Who do you like least?" (actual disliking) (Coie, Dodge, & Coppotelli, 1982), children were asked to answer the questions "Who really likes you?" (perceived liking) and "Who really does not like you?" (perceived disliking) (Zakriski, Coie, & Wright, 1992). To measure aggression, subjects were asked to name the children in their grade who "start fights, pick on other kids and tease them." Withdrawal was measured using the item "Who stays by themselves and away from other kids?" Both limited and unlimited nominations were collected on all items. Scoring of measures.—Unlimited nominations for actual and perceived liking and disliking within the classroom^ were used to calculate the two measures of status awareness. Group-based expectation scores were calculated by dividing the number of perceived liking or disliking nominations subjects expected to receive by the number of voters in each class to adjust for differences in class size and student participation. To examine accuracy at the individual level, individual accuracy scores were calculated by dividing the number of actual and perceived liking or disliking nominations a subject received by the number of voters in each class. Then these actual liking or disliking scores were subtiacted from the perceived liking or disliking scores, respectively. Individual accuracy scores therefore could be positive or negative, with positive scores indicating


an overestimation of peer nominations, negative scores indicating an underestimation, and scores near the zero point indicating accurate assessment. Categorization of subjects.—Limited nominations were used to form social status groups as follows: Liking and disliking nominations were summed for each child over all voters in their grade. These sums were then standardized within each school. Social preference was then calculated by subtracting standardized disliking scores from standardized liking scores, and social impact was calculated by adding the liking and disliking scores. Both social preference and social impact scores were then restandardized within school (Coie et al., 1982). Children who received a social preference z score less than —.8, a liking score less than 0, and a disliking score greater than 0 were labeled rejected. A .8 cutoff criterion was used to obtain adequate numbers of rejected children who could be subdivided according to aggressiveness in this and subsequent studies. Our use of .8 SD rather than 1 SD as a rejection cutoff is not unprecedented (see Hymel et al., 1993, for a review). In fact, the decision to use a more lenient rejection cutoff is supported by research on intervention selection criteria which suggests that the use of a more lenient rejection cutoff better identified those rejected children who develop adjustment problems in the long run (Terry & Coie, 1990). According to the procedure used by Kupersmidt and Coie (1990), children who did not meet criteria for inclusion in the other four status groups using .8 SD cutoffs were categorized as having average status. Average subjects were included in this study as a standard against which the accuracy ofthe rejected subgroups could be compared (Hymel et al., 1993). Aggression scores were calculated for each child by first summing nominations for the limited "starts fights" item over all voters in that school and then standardizing within school (Patterson et al., 1990) and gender (Coie et al., 1992). To qualify as aggressive, subjects had to receive a z score of

' Although actual and perceived nominations for this study were collected from students in the whole fourth grade, perceived nominations in Study 2 were only measured within class. To allow for comparability across studies, only within-class nominations were used to calculate accuracy. Replication of the Study 1 analyses using actual and perceived nominations over the entire grade revealed the same pattem of results. Our choice to focus on within-class nominations is also justified by the following reasons. First, inspection of the data revealed that children voted predominantly for classmates. Second, because elementary school children spend most of their time in school with their classmates, within-class perceptions were likely to be more stable and reliable than grade-wide nominations.


Child Development
1990) was used to test for differences between group means.

at least -I- .5 on their standardized aggression score.^ To qualify as nonaggressive, subjects had to receive an aggression z score of less than 0. When the withdrawal nominations were tabulated, the totals yielded a badly skewed distribution owing to the fact that subjects named very few of their peers as fitting this description. Because of this, we did not use the withdrawal measure to subdivide the rejected group. Younger, Schwartzman, and Ledingham (1985) have reported related problems in the use of withdrawn behavior nomination procedures with children of this age. Sociometric classifications yielded 122 rejected children (70 boys and 52 girls) and 328 average status children (154 boys and 174 girls). Although the names of all these children were included on the nomination rosters, not all of these children were present when the nomination data were collected. A total of 80 rejected (46 boys and 34 girls) and 253 average (115 boys and 138 girls) children participated in the sociometric administration and therefore had complete data on both perceived and actual social status. The rejected subjects were classified into aggressive (AR) and nonaggressive (NR) subgroups, yielding 26 aggressive-rejected subjects (14 boys and 12 girls) and 43 nonaggressive-rejected subjects (24 boys and 19 girls). Eleven rejected children were categorized as neither aggressive nor nonaggressive and their data were not included in the analyses. Data Analysis Subjects' group-based expectations of acceptance or rejection and individual accuracy scores were compared in four separate 3 (status group) X 2 (ethnicity) x 2 (gender) ANOVAs, using the Ceneral Linear Models framework. Because gender did not produce any significant main effects or interactions, we collapsed over this variable. Only when the overall model was significant were significant main effects and interactions examined. Because comparisons of status groups were planned and involved only three groups. Fisher's LSD (Maxwell & Delaney,

Preliminary analyses revealed that the two rejected subgroups did not differ in actual social acceptance or social rejection. A 3 (status group) x 2 (ethnicity) ANOVA on social acceptance revealed the expected main effect for status group, F(2, 319) = 19.28, p < .0001. However, comparisons of status group means revealed no differences in social acceptance between the rejected subgroups (MAR = .18, MMR = .21). Both groups received fewer "like most" nominations than did average status children (MAV = .31). There was no difference between African-American and Caucasian subjects in the number of "like most" nominations they received. Similarly, an ANOVA on withinclass social rejection revealed fhe expected main effect for stattis group, F(2, 319) = 48.13, p < .0001, but comparisons of group means revealed that both subgroups of rejected children received significantly more "like least" nominations than did average children (MAR = .42, M^R = .37, MAV = -21). There was no difference between AfricanAmerican and Caucasian subjects in the number of "like least" nominations they received. The fact that rejected subgroups did not differ on measures of actual social acceptance or rejection indicates that potential subgroup differences in subjects' individual accuracy scores are unlikely to be the result of a confound with actual popularity. Subjects who are more disliked, for example, have a greater possibility of underestimating their rejection, whereas those who are less disliked have more opportunity to overestimate their rejection. Thus, accuracy can be confounded by base rates (Gage & Cronbach, 1955; Zakriski et al., 1992). By this reasoning, accuracy differences between either of the rejected subgroups and the average group must be interpreted with caution, since it is possible that such a difference could be explained by this base-rate confound.

^ The aggression cutoff was set at .5 SD in order to be consistent across studies. In Studies 2 and 3, we needed to use a more lenient aggression cutoff to obtain roughly equal numbers of Caucasian and African-American subjects in the aggressive-rejected group. With a more stringent aggression cutoff in those studies, the aggressive-rejected group becomes unbalanced, with more African-American subjects than Caucasian subjects. This creates a confound of rejection subgroup and ethnicity, making interpretation of the results problematic. To test the consequences of using this more inclusive criterion for aggressiveness, we repeated all of the Study 1 analyses with subject groups defined by a 1 SD aggression cutoff These analyses revealed the same pattern offindingsas were obtained with the groups defined by the .5 SD criterion.

Zakriski and Coie
Group-based Comparisons of Expected Acceptance and Rejection T'he ANOVA on group-based expectations of social acceptance (liking) revealed only a main effect for ethnicity, F(l, 316) = 7.73, p < .01, with African-American subjects expecting more liking nominations (M = .28) than Caucasian subjects (M = .21). As shown in Table 1, the number of expected "like most" nominations did not differ across status groups. This means that both subgroups of rejected children expected an unrealistic number of "like most" nominations, but did not differ from each other in this respect. The ANOVA on group-based expectations of social rejection revealed a marginal main effect for status group, F(2, 316) = 2.72, p < .07. As shown in Table 1, comparisons of status group means revealed that nonaggressive-rejected children expected more "like least" nominations than did average status children, F(l, 316) = 6.87, p < .01, whereas aggressive-rejected children did not differ from average children, F < 1. A main effect for ethnicity, F(l, 316) = 6.54, p < .01, indicated that African-American subjects (M = .15) expected fewer "like least" nominations than did Caucasian subjects (M = .21). Individual Accuracy The ANOVA on individual accuracy scores for social acceptance revealed a main effect for status group, F(2, 316) = 7.29, p < .001. As seen in Table 1, comparisons of status group means indicated that both aggressive-rejected, F(l, 316) = 6.33, p < .01, and nonaggressive-rejected children, F(l, 316) = 7.15, p < .01, overestimated their social acceptance more than average status children. The two rejected subgroups, however, did not differ, F(l, 316) < 1. In absolute terms, both rejected groups expected to re-


ceive as many "like most" nominations as they actually received. This was refiected by the fact that their accuracy scores were near zero. Average status children, on the other hand, expected fewer "like most" votes than they received, as refiected by their negative accuracy scores. There was also a main effect for ethnicity, F(l, 316) = 3.91, p < .05, indicating that Caucasian subjects (M = — .07) were more likely to underestimate their social acceptance than were African-American subjects (M = - .02). The ANOVA on individueJ accuracy scores for social rejection also revealed a main effect for status group, F(2, 316) = 14.11, p < .0001. The means in Table 1 refiect the fact that aggressiverejected children underestimated how much they were disliked significantly more than both average children, F(l, 316) = 21.56, p < .0001, and nonaggressive-rejected children, F(l, 316) = 6.10, p < .01. Nonaggressive-rejected children underestimated their social rejection only more than average children, F(l, 316) = 4.21, p < .04. In absolute terms, aggressive-rejected children expected many fewer "like least" nominations than they received, nonaggressive-rejected children expected slightly fewer "like least" nominations than they received, and average status children expected to receive approximately the same number of "like least" nominations as they received. A main effect for ethnicity, F(l, 316) = 12.39, p < .001, indicated that African-American subjects (M = — .12) underestimated their social rejection more than Caucasian subjects (M = - .03).

Clarification ofEthniciiy Effects
Because in mixed ethnicity school settings, children have been shown to nominate more same-ethnicity peers as "liked most" than cross-ethnicity peers, and more cross-ethnicity peers as "liked least" than same-ethnicity peers (Singleton & Asher,


Aggressive-Rejected Nonaggressive-Rejected Average

26 43 253

.22a .24a .24a

.17ab .25a .18b

.04a .02a -.08b

-.24a -.lib -.04c

NOTE.—Means with different letters within each column are significantly different at p < .05. Positive individual accuracy scores indicate overestimation, negative scores indicate underestimation, and scores near zero indicate accurate assessments.


Child Development

1977), we were concerned that our AfricanAmerican subjects might have been at a disadvantage when judging their social status because they were in the minority (at least 60% Caucasian and 40% African-American) in 31 ofthe 33 classrooms in this study. Biased cross-ethnicity voting patterns or difficulties in assessing cross-ethnicity acceptance and rejection therefore would have a much greater impact on African-American subjects' accuracy than on Caucasian subjects' accuracy. To assess the impact of sameand cross-ethnicity judgments on social status perceptions, we conducted a 2 (ethnicity of subject) X 2 (gender) x 2 (ethnicity of voter: same-ethnicity vs. cross-ethnicity) ANOVA on individual accuracy for both social acceptance and social rejection with ethnicity of voter as a repeated measure. For social acceptance, we found a main effect for ethnicity of subject, F(l, 588) = 6.16, p < .01, indicating that Caucasian subjects underestimated their social acceptance more than did African-American subjects. We also found a significant ethnicity of subject x ethnicity of voter interaction, F(l, 588) = 22.74, p < .001, indicating that AfricanAmerican (M = — .03) and Caucasian (M = .01) subjects were not different in their judgments of same-ethnicity social acceptance. That is, both ethnic groups were equally accurate in judging how much same-ethnicity peers liked them. However, AfricanAmerican and Caucasian subjects diverged in accuracy when judging their crossethnicity social acceptance: Caucasian subjects underestimated the number of "like most" nominations they would receive from African-American peers (M = — .24), and African-American subjects overestimated the number of "like most" nominations they would receive from Caucasian peers (M = .23). Similar results were found for social rejection. We found the expected main effect for ethnicity, F(l, 588) = 4.23, p < .04. We also found a significant ethnicity of subject X ethnicity of voter interaction, F(l, 588) = 12.52, p < .001. This interaction indicated that African-American (M = .01) and Caucasian (M = .01) subjects did not differ in accuracy when judging their same-ethnicity social rejection, but differed when judging their cross-ethnicity social rejection. Caucasian subjects overestimated the number of "like least" nominations they would receive from African-American peers (M = .17), and African-American subjects underestimated the nurriber of "like least" nominations they would receive from Caucasian peers (M = -.22).

These results support previous research findings suggesting that aggressive-rejected children overestimate their peer social status, whereas nonaggressive-rejected children more accurately assess their social status. Furthermore, the results suggest that it is social rejection that most clearly distinguishes aggressive-rejected from nonaggressive-rejected children in the status perception domain. Nonaggressive-rejected children appropriately expected more "like least" nominations than did average status children, whereas aggressive-rejected children did not. Consequently, aggressiverejected children underestimated their social rejection more than nonaggressive-rejected and average status children. Aggressive-rejected children also underestimated their social rejection in absolute terms, as evidenced by their large negative accuracy scores. In contrast, nonaggressiverejected and average status children had accuracy scores closer to zero. That is, they were highly accurate. Both rejected groups unrealistically expected the same number of "like most" nominations as average status children, and consequently both groups overestimated their social acceptance more than average status children. For social preference, both rejected groups were accurate in absolute terms, whereas average status children underestimated their social preference, as evidenced by their negative accuracy score. These rejected subgroup findings provide one possible explanation for some of the differences reported in the literature between aggressive and nonaggressiverejected children. If aggressive-rejected children believe that they are disliked less than they really are, they might very well feel less lonely (Parkhurst & Asher, 1992) and feel less need for help (Asher et al., 1991). This also may explain why aggressive-rejected children would be more apt to express a desire for continued social interaction with peers (Parkhurst & Asher, 1992; Rabiner & Gordon, 1993) and hold generally positive beliefs about them (Rabiner & Keane, 1991), whereas nonaggressiverejected children would not. In addition to status subgroup differences in children's abilities to judge their social status, we found ethnicity differences in children's judgments of their social status. When asked to assess classroom social status, African-American subjects expected

Zakriski and Coie
more "like most" nominations than Caucasian subjects, and fewer "like least" nominations than Caucasian subjects. Analyses of actual liking and disliking by peers revealed no differences between ethnic groups for these variables. Consequently, AfricanAmerican subjects underestimated their social acceptance less than Caucasian subjects and underestimated their social rejection more than Caucasian subjects. Interpretation of these ethnicity differences was complicated by the fact that 88% of our African-American subjects were in a minority in their classrooms. It is possible that children in general have less access to information about cross-ethnicity peers' social preferences than same-ethnicity peers' social preferences. If so, minority status children would be at a disadvantage when asked to judge who liked or did not like them. Additional analyses supported this viewpoint and suggested that African-American subjects' inaccuracy in the general analyses was infiuenced by their minority status. These analyses demonstrated that AfricanAmerican and Caucasian children did not differ in their judgments of same-ethnicity peers. Both were inaccurate, however, when judging cross-ethnicity peers. Caucasian subjects were pessimistic about how well they were regarded by African-American peers, whereas African-American subjects were optimistic about how well they were regarded by Caucasian peers. This crossethnicity inaccuracy translated into overall inaccuracy for the African-American subjects because they had to estimate the likes and dislikes of many more cross-ethnicity peers than same-ethnicity peers.


rejected children possess specific difficulties in processing social rejection cues only when the self is involved. That is, their deficits in status awareness might be more heavily infiuenced by defensive and selfprotective mechanisms than by general information processing difficulties. This explanation is supported by findings in other social judgment tasks, such as children's perceptions of intent in ambiguous situations, that biased perceptions are more pronounced when the situation involves the self (Dodge & Somberg, 1987). It is also consistent with the "ego-defensiveness" hypothesis offered by Asher and colleagues to explain why aggressive-rejected children might report less loneliness (Asher, Parkhurst, Hymel, & Williams, 1990), and is supported by recent research linking aggressive-rejection with narcissistic characteristics (Bukowski, Sippola, Verlan, & Newcomb, 1993). The purpose of Study 2 was to determine whether the subgroup differences observed in Study 1 were specific only to selfperceptions of social status, or whether these differences extend to perceptions of other children's peer status. All of the rejected children identified in Study 1, and an equal number of average status children, were asked to participate in Study 2. Subjects in this study were asked to report on the status of several classroom peers. The goal was to assess whether aggressive-rejected children's status awareness difficulties are due to general social information processing problems or self-specific processing issues. If aggressive-rejected subjects are able to accurately report on how well other children are liked or disliked, it is likely that their own poor status awareness is the result of a more self-specific bias in reading or reporting on social status. If instead, aggressive-rejected children inaccurately report on the status of their peers, their own poor status awareness may be the result of a more general social information processing problem.

Study 2: Assessment of Others
The results of Study 1 support the hypothesis that aggressive-rejected children generally are less accurate in their judgments of peer dislike than nonaggressiverejected children. This raises questions about the reason for this difference. One possible explanation is that aggressiverejected children inaccurately perceive their social status due to a general social information processing deficit. There is a substantial body of research describing social information processing difficulties in aggressive and aggressive-rejected children (Dodge, Pettit, McClaskey, & Brown, 1986; Lochman, Myer, Rabiner, & White, 1991). However, that literature does not appear to explain the phenomenon described in this article. Another possible explanation is that aggressive-

Subjects The subjects for this study were 55 boys identified in Study 1, mean age = 10.35 years (SD = .43). Parent permission to participate in the present study was solicited from all children who could be classified as sociometrically rejected (n = 117) and an equal number of randomly selected average status children whose aggression scores fell


Child Development
two average, and two rejected children from each subject's classroom to serve as target children for this task. However, in 10 classes there were fewer than two popular children, and in one class there were fewer than two rejected children. Therefore, subjects made judgments on lists of four to six children. One African-American aggressive-rejected subject was excluded from the analyses because he was the only rejected child in his class, and therefore could not assess the status of a rejected other. Subjects made unlimited judgments of liking and disliking about each of the target children. These judgments were then used to compute individual accuracy scores as discussed in Study 1. Because of time limitations, perceptions of other children's status were only assessed within class. For this reason, only within-class actual nominations were used for accuracy comparisons. When subjects judged more than one child of a given status group, their individual accuracy scores were averaged across the two samestatus targets. As in Study 1, two scores were computed for individual accuracy: one for social rejection, and one for social acceptance. Procedure In the early summer following fourth grade, subjects were interviewed individually in our laboratory by one of four experimenters who were blind to the status ofthe subject. Subjects were told that we were interested in learning about children's friendships and how much children know about who likes whom in their classroom. Subjects were reminded ofthe sociometric they completed in the spring and were given tiie following instructions: "I am going to read you some names of children in your class [target children] and I want you to tell me who you think voted for these kids as someone they liked the most or someone they liked the least." After each target child's name was read, the interviewer went through the list of classmates and had the subject indicate the ones who would have named the target as someone they liked most. A similar procedure was then followed to identify classmates thought to have named the target as someone they liked least. The order of presentation of target children from different status groups was fully counterbalanced. Each subject was told by the experimenter that their answers would be kept confidential. They were also asked not to discuss their choices with other subjects or with peers in their classroom.

within .5 SD of their same-gender standard score for aggression. Out ofthe 234 potential subjects, written parental consent was received for 155 children (66%), 46 parents declined permission (20%), and 33 parents failed to respond after several attempts at contact (14%). Of the 155 children whose parents consented, 111 children (78%) participated in this study. The 34 children with parental consent who did not participate were unavailable during the data collection period. Ofthe 111 children who participated in this study, 56 were girls. The data for girls are not included in this report because there was an insufficient number of aggressiverejected girls to perform the analyses testing the main hypothesis of this study. When aggression was standardized within gender, there were only 16 aggressive-rejected females in our population of 826 children (1.9%), and we were able to recruit five of them for this study. These rates are consistent with other studies of aggressiverejected children: In a sample of 663 children, Patterson et al. (1990) only identified six aggressive-rejected girls, and in a sample of 112, Kupersmidt and Coie (1990) only identified one aggressive-rejected girl. The recruitment procedures described above yielded the following groups of subjects: 18 aggressive-rejected males (8 Caucasian and 10 African-American); 16 nonaggressive-rejected males (9 Caucasian and 7 African-American); 22 average males (11 Caucasian and 11 African-American). Twelve of the recruited rejected males had aggression scores that fell between our cutoffs for the aggressive and nonaggressive groups and thus were excluded from the analyses. To test for differences between participating and nonparticipating rejected boys, we performed ANOVAs on our two main independent variables: aggression and social preference. Neither variable showed differences between participating and nonparticipating rejected boys, F(l, 54) = 1.39, p < .24 and F(l, 54) = 1.73, p < .19. Measures Using a modified sociometric procedure, subjects were interviewed about the social status of selected peers in their classroom to assess their knowledge of other children's peer relations. Subjects were asked to name who they think likes/does not like each of several peers in their classroom. We attempted to randomly select two popular.



Zakriski and Coie


Accuracy Differences in the Perceptions of Other Children's Social Status Two 3 (social status of subject) x 2 (ethnicity) X 3 (status of other) ANOVAs, with status of other as a repeated measure, were conducted using the framework of General Linear Models. The ANOVA on accuracy for social acceptance revealed a significant status of other main effect, F(2, 98) = 11.61, p < .0001, suggesting that subjects were generally better able to assess the social acceptance of rejected others than of average and popular status others (see Table 2). However, a status of subject X status of other interaction, F(4, 98) = 2.63, p < .04, suggested that this was not equally true for all subjects. Tests of contrasts revealed that average status subjects showed greater accuracy when judging rejected others than when judging average or popular others, compared to aggressive-rejected subjects whose accuracy assessments of all others did not differ. Inspection of the means in Table 2 reveals that aggressive-rejected subjects, whose accuracy scores are near zero, were quite accurate in the assessment ofthe status of all types of others. A significant status of other X status of subject X ethnicity interaction revealed a more dramatic sbift in accuracy scores over the target children for African-American average subjects than for Caucasian average subjects. Caucasian subjects had better accuracy scores when assessing the social acceptance of rejected others (M = —.02) than they did when assessing popular (M = — .13) or average status others (M = -.19). Recall that negative scores reflect an underestimation of the number of nominations a target received, positive scores reflect an overestimation, and scores near the zero point refiect accurate assessment. African-American subjects had higher accuracy scores when assessing rejected others (M = .16) than they did when assessing popular (M = —.18) or average others (M = — .06), but these scores reflected a different type of inaccuracy. Whereas their negative scores indicated underestimation of popular and average children's social acceptance, their positive score indicated overestimation of rejected children's social acceptance. In addition to these significant effects, a marginal overall status of subject main effect, F(2, 49) = 2.63, p < .08, was explored to better understand the accuracy differences between our subject groups. Univariate tests for rejected, popular, and average others revealed that this group difference

was only significant in the assessment of popular others, F(2, 49) = 4.43, p < .02. Aggressive-rejected boys more accurately assessed the social acceptance of popular children than did either average boys, F(l, 49) = 7.08, p < .01, or nonaggressive-rejected boys, F(l, 49) = 5.36, p < .02. There was a similar trend in the assessment of average others, F(2, 49) = 2.42, p < .10, with aggressive-rejected boys being more likely to accurately assess the social acceptance of average others than were average subjects, F(l, 49) = 4.92, p < .03. For rejected others, the overall model was not significant, F(5,49) = 1.36, p < .26. Together these findings suggest that rather than being less accurate in the assessment of others, aggressive-rejected boys were more consistently accurate in their assessments of other children's social acceptance than were some other subjects, and were at times more accurate in their perceptions of other children's social acceptance than were average and nonaggressiverejected boys. We next performed the same ANOVA on accuracy of social rejection judgments. There was a status of other main effect, F(2, 98) = 7.27, p < .002, suggesting that subjects were better able to assess the social rejection of average and popular children than that of rejected children (see Table 2). There was a marginal status of other x status of subject interaction, F(4, 98) = 2.27, p < .07, which qualified this main effect. Tests of contrasts revealed that average children had more variability in their accuracy scores, compared to aggressive-rejected boys whose accuracy scores were quite consistent across others. All ofthe accuracy scores for the aggressive-rejected subjects were near zero, suggesting that they were quite accurate in their rejection assessments. A status of other X status of subject x ethnicity interaction, F(4, 98) = 4.06, p < .006, revealed that this contrast was most extreme between AfricanAmerican average subjects and Caucasian aggressive-rejected subjects. AfricanAmerican subjects made an extreme shift in accuracy between their overestimation of social rejection for average (M = .12) and popular otiiers (M = .26), and their underestimation of rejection for rejected others (M = — .12), whereas Caucasian aggressiverejected subjects were consistent and accurate in their assessments of average (M = — .04), popular (M = —.02), and rejected others (M = —.09). African-American aggressive-rejected subjects and Caucasian average subjects demonstrated patterns that


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Zakriski and Coie 1059
jected status with peers might be traced to a similar failure in recognizing that one has received negative evaluation cues from peers. If so, this would help to explain why the aggressive-rejected boys were less accurate in estimating how much they were disliked by peers. There are, of course, other explanations for this phenomenon. One is that peers are not as open or as direct in their These findings lend some support to the expressions of dislike for aggressive-rejected hypothesis that aggressive-rejected boys are children as they are toward nonaggressivejust as accurate as nonaggressive-rejected rejected children. One reason for being less and average status boys in judging the social open with the aggressive children is that status of other children. In absolute terms, peers may worry about physical retaliation there were some instances when they were and intimidation if they make their feelings even more accurate. Aggressive-rejected known. There is some evidence that alboys made consistently more accurate as- though aggressive-rejected and nonaggressessments of other children's social accep- sive- rejected children do not differ in actual tance and social rejection than did average rejection (Hymel et al., 1993), aggressivestatus children. When judging the social rejected children may be less excluded by acceptance of popular children, they were their peers (Boivin et a l , 1991; Caims, more accurate than either average status or Cairns, Neckerman, Gest, & Gariepy, 1988; nonaggressive-rejected boys. It is important Hymel et al., 1993) and suffer less active and to note that often these absolute accuracies passive peer disregard than nonaggressivewere relative inaccuracies when aggressive- rejected children (Boivin et al., 1991). Furrejected children were compared with the thermore, aggressive-rejected boys more ofother status groups who tended to underesti- ten have their aggressive acts ignored by mate other children's social acceptance and peers than other boys and thus receive uninoverestimate their social rejection. Nonethe- tended reinforcement of their aggressive beless, their other-perceptions appear to be an havior (Coie, Dodge, Terry, & Wright, 1991). improvement over their self-perceptions. In this and other ways, they may not receive Recall that when judging their own social direct indications of peer dislike. rejection, aggressive-rejected children were the most inaccurate both in absolute terms Because there was no way of determinand in relative comparisons between status ing what kind of negative feedback the groups. groups in Study 1 actually may have received from peers, we designed an experiThese findings suggest that aggressive- ment to provide a more controlled test ofthe rejected boys are capable of reading cues hypothesis that aggressive-rejected children about rejection in others, even though they are self-protective when processing peer reunderestimate their own rejection. Thus, we jection cues, rather than simply failing to reare inclined to reject the hypothesis that ag- ceive them. In Study 3, we exposed aggresgreSsive-rejected children are less aware of sive-rejected and nonaggressive-rejected their social status than other children as a boys to experimentally manipulated rejecresult of a general deficiency in reading so- tion feedback from peer-like confederates to cial status cues from peers. In light of this determine whether there were subgroup difconclusion, we proceed to consider a more ferences in the recognition of negative feedspeoific explanation for group differences back. We hoped to replicate the pattern of in s°elf-awareness, namely, that aggressive- results from the first two studies with social rejected boys are less perceptive in reading feedback that was equally rejecting of self negative feedback directed at themselves and other. We expected nonaggressivethan when it is directed at other children. rejected and average status boys to judge self- and other-directed feedback comparably, and for aggressive-rejected boys to rate Study 3: Interpretations of self-directed feedback more positively. ReExperimentally Controlled sults such as these would not rule out differSelf-directed and Other-directed ences in the quality of actual rejection feedRejection Feedback back from peers as a potential influence on The goal ofthe third study was to deter- social status assessments subjects may make mine whether failure to recognize one's re- in their everyday interactions, but they were less extreme but similar to their samestatus counterparts. There was no status of subject main effect. In summary, instead of being less accurate in their assessments ofthe social rejection of others than average or nonaggressive-rejected boys, aggressiverejected boys appear to make more consistently accurate assessments of other children's rejection than do average status boys.


Child Development
viewing videotapes of other children receiving social feedback, referred to as the otherdirected feedback condition. The second involved receiving feedback from experimental confederates, referred to as the selfdirected feedback condition. The otherdirected feedback condition was always presented first, followed by a 5-min distractor task in which the subjects played a card game with their interviewers, and then followed by the self-directed feedback condition. The order ofthe negative and ambiguous vignettes was counterbalanced. Small numbers of subjects made it impossible to counterbalance both the feedback target (self vs. other) and the feedback valence (negative vs. ambiguous). We decided to counterbalance valence because pretesting indicated that children's judgments of the ambiguous feedback were heavily influenced by whether it came before or after the negative feedback. Specifically, if it came after the negative feedback, it was seen as quite positive by comparison. Because our main hypothesis involved an interaction of status of subject with target of feedback, rather than a main effect for target of feedback, counterbalancing for target of feedback did not seem as critical. We also felt that presenting the other-directed condition first would serve to familiarize all subjects equally with the game that they were to play when they themselves participated in the self-directed condition. Because of this design feature, target-of-feedback main effects should be interpreted with caution. Study 3 was conducted during the same laboratory visit as Study 2. Half of the subjects participated in Study 2 before participating in the self-directed condition of Study 3, and half of the subjects participated in the selfdirected condition of Study 3 before participating in Study 2. Other-directed feedback.—In the otherdirected feedback condition, each subject

might point to a role for defensive information processing. In everyday interactions it might be the case that both these factors work to influence the inaccuracy of aggressive-rejected children's status selfperceptions. Subjects from the second study participated in this third study, which included two major manipulations. First, subjects judged comparable self-directed and otherdirected rejection feedback. We did this to replicate the self-other differences found in Studies 1 and 2, without the confound of differences in rejection feedback. Second, subjects judged two different levels of social feedback; ambiguous (void of direct positive and direct negative feedback) and negative. We did this to further test the hypothesis that aggressive-rejected children are more defensive when processing direct rejection feedback. If defensiveness is involved in this process, we would expect subjects to make greater distortions when the feedback is more negative. Although participation in the first two studies may have sensitized children to affiliation cues in their classrooms, the sensitization was no greater for any one of our subject groups since all participated equally.

Subjects The subject groups were the same as those involved in Study 2: 18 aggressiverejected males'' (8 Caucasian and 10 AfricanAmerican); 16 nonaggressive-rejected males (9 Caucasian and 7 African-American); 22 average males (11 Caucasian and 11 AfricanAmerican). As with Study 2, only males were included in this study because ofthe scarcity of aggressive-rejected females. Procedure Overview.—Subjects participated in two experimental tasks. The first involved

^ The aggression cutoff for forming this group was .5 as discussed in Study 1. Analyses were also conducted using the more traditional 1 SD cutoff. The results duplicated the results presented in this paper. The distrihution of subjects in these more traditional groups—11 aggressiverejected (3 Caucasian and 8 African-American), and 16 nonaggressive-rejected (9 Caucasian and 7 African-American)—however, made it difficult to detennine whether status subgroup or ethnicity was responsible for the critical findings. Because the results are not different when more Caucasian subjects are added to the aggressive-rejected group through the use of a less stringent aggression cutoff, we believe that ethnicity cannot be the only variable accounting for the effects we observe. We realize that our use of a more ienient aggression cutoff may appear to make our results less generalizable. However, we would like to underscore that even with a more heterogeneous aggressive-rejected group we were able to find the differences we predicted based on our review ofthe literature. Also, our results do not appear to be driven by the addition of subjects that others might not consider aggressive-rejected. Instead, we find the same results when these children are eliminated.

Zakriski and Coie
viewed two 5-min videotaped vignettes. In each videotaped vignette, two children played a board game in which they took turns asking each other to do something specified by cards that they drew as they moved about the game board. In the context of this game, one of the children provided cues about how much he liked or disliked the other child. In one of the vignettes the feedback was negative, and in the other the feedback was ambiguous. The child giving the feedback (the protagonist) varied across the two vignettes, while the child receiving the feedback (the target child) remained constant. Two sets of vignettes were produced so that children could view and make judgments about children of their own ethnicity. The aetors for the vignettes were selected from another school district so as to minimize the chances of subjects knowing them. None of the subjects reported recognizing any of the actors they viewed on the videotapes. Subjects viewed the videotapes in individual sessions with one of four experimenters present. Half of the subjects of each ethnicity worked with an African-American interviewer and half with a Caucasian interviewer. Before viewing each vignette, subjects were told that we were testing a new game that was designed to help children get to know each other. We told them we needed them to help us decide if the game was fun for children to play, and if it helped children to get to know each other. After viewing each tape, subjects were asked to indicate on a seven-point scale, ranging from "did not like at all" to "liked a lot," how much they thought the protagonist liked the target child, referred to as attributed liking, and how much they thought the target child liked the protagonist, referred to as liking. To support this cover story, children also were asked to rate how much they thought each of the children liked the game they were playing. The latter responses are not included in the data analyses. Self-directed feedback.—In the selfdirected feedback condition, subjects interacted for 5 min each with two experimental confederates who were scripted to provide different types of feedback to the subject. The 5-min duration was chosen for both the other-directed and the self-directed feedback conditions to provide an interaction of suiEcient length for children to be able to make judgments about liking, but brief enough for confederates to be able to maintain their roles. The two types of feedback


were virtually identical to the negative and ambiguous feedback given in the otherdirected feedback condition. As part of their training, confederates studied the videotapes produced for the other-directed condition to make their style of feedback delivery as similar as possible. The subjects and confederates played the same board game viewed in the other-directed feedback condition. The negative confederate was different from the ambiguous confederate for each subject, but the role assignments were held constant across subjects to insure consistency of feedback within valence condition. All subjects interacted with confederates of their same ethnicity to minimize the influence of cross-ethnicity biases on children's judgments. Thus, there were four confederates: African-American ambiguous, AfricanAmerican negative, Caucasian ambiguous, and Caucasian negative. The same person trained the African-American and Caucasian confederates to reduce interindividual variability. Also, confederates had at least two refresher rehearsals on the days they were to interact with subjects to reduce intraindividual variability. As in the otherdirected condition, confederates were selected from a different school district to minimize the chances of subjects knowing them. Unfortunately, four subjects knew one of the confederates they were to interact with. In these cases, we spoke with the confederate in private and told him to play the game as he would if we had not given him instructions. As a result, one aggressiverejected subject, two average subjects, and one nonaggressive-rejected subject are not included in this report. Subjects were led through the procedure by the same person who interviewed them in the other-directed condition. Before subjects were introduced to the confederate, they were told that they were going to play the same game they just saw on video to see if they enjoyed playing it themselves. We told them they would be playing it with two different children because "sometimes how much you like a game has a lot to do with who you are playing with, and we want to make sure we find out how much you like the game itself." After the subject and confederate were introduced and given instructions, the interviewer told the children that the subject should gofirst.This insured that the confederates would receive the cards for which they had rehearsed answers, and insured consistency of the interaction across all subjects. After each 5-min interaction.


Child Development
they derived from interviews with children to create dimensions of behavior one might expect from someone who was unfriendly, and included examples of each in our scripts. Pilot testing suggested that children recognized the rejection behaviors we selected and found them to be credible. In the negative feedback condition, the protagonist begrudgingly played the game suggested by the subject (in the self-directed condition) or the video target child (in the other-directed condition) and complained about being there with the subject/video target child. The protagonist refused to answer some of the questions, displayed negative affect, and was competitive with the subject or the video target child. Perhaps the strongest liking cue came when the subject/video target child read the game caid "Ask your partner to tell you something he likes about you." The negative protagonist refused to answer. In the ambiguous feedback condition the protagonist agreed to play the game suggested by the subject/video target child but did so without enthusiasm. He cooperated, but answered questions briefly, vaguely, and offered nothing beyond what was asked. He displayed neutral affect and was neither supportive nor competitive with the subject/video target child. In response to the question asking what he liked about the subject/video target child, the ambiguous protagonist said, after a short pause, "Hmmm . . . Well . . . I guess your shirt is nice? " The scripts for the self- and otherdirected conditions were developed through extensive field testing. It was essential to develop scripts that were realistic and that could be performed in both the video and confederate contexts. For example, because the self-directed feedback condition involved child subjects receiving feedback, it was essential that the negative feedback not be blatant or hurtful. A second reason for not using blatant feedback was to enable us to observe a range of accuracy in children's judgments of liking. The results of pilot testing demonstrated that when asked how much they thought the protagonist liked them on a 7-point scale, the target children could clearly distinguish between the two different feedback conditions, F(2, 64) = 92.04, p < .0001 (Ma,^b = 4.95, SD = 1.93; M^^g = 1.82, SD = 1.45). Data Analysis The main analyses were two four-way repeated-measures ANOVAs: 3 (social sta-

subjects were asked to rate on the same scale how much the confederate liked them (attributed liking). The subjects were also asked how much they liked the confederate (liking). The children were also asked to rate how much they liked the game and how much they thought the confederate liked the game. These latter responses were not analyzed. The attributed liking measure provided the main assessment of subjects' interpretations ofthe feedback they saw or were given. However, it was also expected that the liking measure would serve as an indirect measure of how positively subjects judged the protagonists' behavior toward themselves and the video target child. According to the reinforcement-affect model of interpersonal attraction (Clore & Byrne, 1974), if subjects really thought a protagonist acted positively toward them they would like the protagonist, because people like others who act in ways that are reinforcing. Likewise, they would probably not like the protagonist if they felt the protagonist had acted negatively toward them, because people tend not to like others who make them feel bad. It is also a well-supported social psychological finding that we are attracted to those we believe are attracted to us, and not attracted to those we believe are not attracted to us (Backman & Secord, 1959; Curtis & Miller, 1986). To prevent subjects from feeling distressed by their interaction with the negative confederate, they were debriefed following the second confederate interaction by their individual interviewer. They were given an opportunity to ask questions and then taken to a play session where they could interact naturally with the confederates and other subjects. Because play sessions took place after everyone present had participated in both tasks, and because the experiment took place in the summer, it is unlikely that subjects who had completed the procedure contaminated subjects who had not yet participated. All post-experiment play sessions were supervised by adults to insure that subjects had positive interactions with the confederates. Materials The dimensions of rejecting behavior manipulated in the scripts for this study were drawn from Furman and Bierman's (1984) study of children's conceptions of friendship as well as our own informal observations of children's peer interactions. We inverted the dimensions of friendship

Zakriski and Coie
tus: aggressive-rejected, nonaggressiverejected, average) x 2 (ethnicity: AfricanAmerican, Caucasian) X 2 (target of feedback: other, self) X 2 (valence of feedback: ambiguous, negative) with target of feedback and valence of feedback as repeated measures. One ANOVA was conducted on attributed liking data, and the other on liking data. Both analyses utilized the General Linear Models framework. Only when the overall model was significant were significant main effects and interactions examined. Because there were only three levels of status group and because status group comparisons were planned, all status group main effects and interactions were followed by contrast tests using Fisher's LSD.


3.17). This suggests that the manipulation of feedback valence was successful. There was a main effect for ethnicity, F(l, 46) = 15.13, p < .001. African-American subjects (M = 4.43) attributed more positive feelings to the protagonists than did Caucasian subjects (M = 3.62). There also was a main effect for target of feedback, F(l, 46) = 42.82, p < .0001, indicating that all subjects attributed more liking to the protagonists in the selfdirected condition (M = 4.62) than to the protagonists in the other-directed condition (M = 3.57). However, because these conditions were not counterbalanced, this effect should be interpreted with caution. There was no main effect for social status. The ANOVA on attributed liking scores also revealed four significant interactions that qualified the main effects outlined above. The first interaction speaks to the major question being addressed in this study. There was a significant social status x target of feedback interaction, F(2, 46) = 4.12, p < .02. As seen in Figure 1, tests of contrasts indicated that, as predicted, aggressiverejected subjects reported a larger difference in attributed liking between the selfdirected and other-directed conditions than did the nonaggressive-rejected subjects, F(l, 47) = 7.98, p < .01, and reported a marginally larger difference than did the average status subjects, F(l, 47) = 3.70, p < .06. Nonaggressive-rejected and average status children did not differ from each other, F(l,

Judgments of Feedback Given to Self and Others The following analyses reflect the extent to which subjects interpreted the social cues in the videotaped vignettes and the cues they received from their experimental play partners as indicators that the partner liked them (or the video target child). The ANOVA on attributed liking scores revealed a significant main effect for valence of feedback, F(l, 46) = 129.49, p < .0001. Overall, subjects attributed more liking to the ambiguous feedback condition (M = 5.02) than to the negative condition (M =

self-directed other-directed




FIG. 1.—Mean attributed liking by status across target of feedback


Child Development
Finally, as can be seen in Figure 2, there was a significant ethnicity x target of feedback x valence of feedback interaction, F(l, 46) = 5.42, p < .02. Inspection of the means revealed that African-American subjects reported a greater difference in attributed liking between the self-directed and other-directed conditions than did Caucasian subjects especially when the feedback was negative. The effect for social status x target of feedback X valence of feedback was not significant (F < 1). Liking of Protagonists by Self and Others These analyses reflect more indirectly on subjects' reading of social cues. They reflect the subjects' liking of their play partner or their judgments ofthe video target child's liking of his play partner. As predicted, children's judgments of how much the protagonists liked them and the video target child were related to their judgments of how much they liked the protagonists and thought the video target child liked the protagonists. The correlations between liking and attributed liking were as follows: self-directed, r(52) = .76, p < .0001; other-directed, r(55) = .40, p < .002. The ANOVA on liking scores revealed a significant valence of feedback effect, F(l, 46) = 65.50, p < .0001. Subjects liked, and thought the video targets liked, the ambigu-

47) = 1.18, p < .28. In terms of absolute ratings, aggressive-rejected boys rated otherdirected feedback more negatively than nonaggressive-rejected boys, F(l, 46) = 8.08, p < .01, and average status boys, F(l, 46) = 5.00, p < .03. Average and nonaggressiverejected boys did not differ in their ratings of other-directed feedback, and none of the groups differed in their ratings of selfdirected feedback. The second significant interaction was a social status x valence of feedback interaction, F(l, 46) = 3.12, p < .05. Tests of contrasts indicated that average status subjects reported a greater difference in attributed liking between the ambiguous and negative conditions (Majt,^ = 5.0, M^eg = 2.7) than did the nonaggressive-rejected subjects (M^i, = 5.0, M^eg = 3.7). Third, there was a significant ethnicity x target of feedback interaction, F(l, 46) = 7.26, p < .01. Inspection ofthe means revealed that African-American subjects reported a greater difference in attributed liking between the self-directed and other-directed conditions (M^gif = 5.3, Mother = 3.6) than did Caucasian subjects (Mseif = 4.0, Mother = 3-3)' The two ethnic groups did not differ in their ratings of otherdirected feedback, F(l, 46) = 2.76, p < .10, but did differ in their ratings of self-directed feedback, F(l, 46) = 21.97, p < .001.

self-directed other-directed



Caucasian amb neg

African American amb neg

FIG. 2.—Mean attributed liking by ethnicity across target of feedback and valence of feedback

Zakriski and Coie
ous feedback protagonists (M = 5.62) better than the negative feedback protagonists (M = 4.39). There was an ethnicity main effect, F(l, 46) = 6.95, p < .01. African-American subjects both .liked, and thought others liked, the protagonists (M = 5.31) more than did the Caucasian subjects (M = 4.60). There also was a target of feedback main ef'fect, F(l, 46) = 9.40, p < .004, indicating that all subjects said they liked the protagonists (M = 5.27) more than they thought the video targets liked the protagonists (M = 4.74). However, due to a lack of counterbalancing, this effect should be interpreted with caution. There was no social status main effect. There was a significant social status x target of feedback interaction, F(2, 46) = 3.61, p < .04, which appeared to qualify the target of feedback main effect. As can be seen in Figure 3, tests of contrasts indicated the disparity in liking for the protagonists between the self-directed condition and the other-directed condition was significantiy larger for the aggressive-rejected subjects than the nonaggressive-rejected subjects, F(l, 47) = 5.84, p < .02, or the average status subjects, F(l, 47) = 5.14, p < .03. Nonaggressive-rejected and average status subjects did not differ from each other, F < 1. Subject groups did not differ in their absolute ratings of other-directed feedback, or self-directed


feedback. No other interactions were significant.

General Discussion
Aggression, Social Status, and Judgments of Peer Rejection The results of Study 3 show that when aggressive-rejected and nonaggressiverejected boys are given identical social feedback, aggressive-rejected boys infiate their ratings of self-directed feedback relative to their own ratings of comparable otherdirected feedback. This finding is consistent with the results of our first two studies, as well as other research suggesting that aggressive-rejected children underestimate their social rejection more than nonaggressive-rejected children (Cillessen et al., 1992). This experimental finding also makes it unlikely that our field study findings were driven solely by differences in the quality and intensity of rejection feedback that aggressive-rejected and nonaggressiverejected boys receive in their everyday peer interactions. It also provides one possible explanation for reported differences in loneliness and self-concept between aggressiverejected and nonaggressive-rejected children (Boivin, Thomassin, & Alain, 1989;, Boivin, Vitaro, & Tremblay, 1989; Parkhurst & Asher, 1992; Patterson et al., 1990): Aggressive-rejected boys may defend them-

self-<UrBcted other-directed




FIG. 3.—Mean liking by status across target of feedback


Child Development
distinction. In addition to reporting that the protagonist liked them much more than he liked the video target child, aggressiverejected boys also reported liking the protagonist much more than the video target child liked the protagonist. As with attributed liking, this second finding was true of all subjects; however, it was more true for aggressive-rejected boys than it was for nonaggressive-rejected or average boys. The fact that aggressive-rejected boys positively distorted both sides of the interaction suggests that they actually thought the feedback they received was more positive than the feedback the video target child received, and is consistent with the reinforcement-affect model of attraction (Clore & Byrne, 1974). They seemed to be saying, "He liked me better than the other guy," and "I liked him better than the other guy did." Their interpretations ofthe self-directed feedback were more positive than what normal social desirability might explain, and they also were consistent across judgments with varying levels of social sensitivity. That is, it could be argued that it would be easier to tell an adult that you did not like someone whom you thought treated you badly than it would be to tell an adult that someone who treated you badly did not like you. Aggressiverejected boys apparentiy had difficulty with both tasks. Before leaving the topic of status group differences in the judgment of negative feedback, a point should be made about nonaggressive-rejected boys. Although the main effect for target of feedback suggests that all subjects rated self-directed feedback higher than other-directed feedback, this was only marginally true for nonaggressive-rejected boys. Comparisons of nonaggressiverejected boys' ratings of both types of feedback revealed that they felt the feedback they received was comparable to the feedback they viewed on videotape. Thus, in comparison to the other two groups, they were remarkably accurate and nondefensive when judging self-directed feedback. This finding supports the link that has been suggested between nonaggressive-rejection and depression. Studies with adults have found that under some circumstances, depressed adults can be more accurate and less defensive than nondepressed adults in reading social feedback, a phenomenon psychopathology researchers refer to as depressive realism (Alloy & Abrahamson, 1988; Margo, Creenberg, Fisher, & Dewan, 1993). There is some indication also that nonaggressive-

selves against evidence of peer dislike by distorting it in a self-protective way. Thus, they may report relatively low levels of loneliness and high levels of perceived social acceptance because they convince themselves that they are more liked than they really are. It is important to note that in Study 3 aggressive-rejected boys did not rate selfdirected feedback more positively than the other two groups in absolute terms. Instead, the self-enhancing distortions made by aggressive-rejected boys were relative to their own ratings of the same feedback given to others. This difference appears to be the critical one, because determining one's social position in a group often involves making comparisons between the way people treat oneself and the way others are treated (Festinger, 1954). The results of Study 2 suggest that ratings of other people are the appropriate anchor point for interpreting these differences, since the three groups of boys all had comparable accuracy in estimating the social status of a representative group of their classmates. This would seem to suggest that the relative comparisons of Study 3 may involve less of an exaggeration ofthe significances of negative feedback to others and more of a hyposensitivity when this feedback is applied to the self. This pattern of sensitivity to something negative in others and relative insensitivity to that same event or attribute in oneself supports Asher et al.'s (1990) suggestion that aggressiverejected children have overly positive selfperceptions due to ego defensiveness and denial strategies. Because we predicted that in Study 3 aggressive-rejected boys would positively distort self-directed feedback self-protectively, we expected distortion to be stronger when the feedback was negative. We did not find evidence of this. Aggressive-rejected children attributed more liking to the selfdirected condition regardless of whether the feedback was ambiguous or negative. This suggests that the phenomenon is more general than we expected. It is likely that the self versus other discrepancy for aggressiverejected children would disappear if they were given positive feedback. However, further research is needed to determine this. One question that remains is whether aggressive-rejected boys inaccurately read the negative feedback or whether they read it correctly but reported it inaccurately to the examiner. Our second set of findings provides some evidence which bears on this

Zakriski and Coie
rejected children show more signs of depression than other children (Boivin et al., 1994; Rubin et al., 1990). Thus, it is consistent with these findings that nonaggressiverejected children would be less selfprotective about peer feedback. It is possible that accurate assessments of peer dislike in some way serve as an early indication of risk for depression. Caution must be taken in assuming that the inverse of this speculation holds true, namely, that insensitivity to peer dislike may be a buffer against depression, since there is longitudinal evidence that aggressive-rejected youth are at risk for both externalizing and internalizing problems in adolescence (Coie, Terry, Lenox, Lochman, & Hyman, in press).


made more positive ratings, overall, on both dependent measures, indicating that they were displaying more positive attitudes to the interviewers. This face-saving behavior observed in our minority subjects (23 out of 25 African-American subjects were in a racial minority at their schools) is consistent with other self-esteem maintaining behaviors observed in minority groups (Crocker & Major, 1989).

Further research on the social perceptions of rejected girls is needed, since sample limitations made it impossible to conduct Studies 2 and 3 with females. It is possible that the distinction between aggressive- and nonaggressive-rejection is not as meaningful for girls, or that it is different in some ways for girls than it is for boys. For Ethnicity, Gender, and Judgments of Peer example, French's (1990) analysis of reRejection jected girls revealed two clusters. However, In addition to the predicted status sub- aggression did not differentiate between the group findings, we also found interesting two clusters, and the more deviant group ethnicity differences in judgments of rejec- was characterized by higher levels of withtion feedback. Similar to the findings for ag- drawal and anxiety. Another possibility to gressive-rejected boys, African-American consider in future research on rejected girls subjects positively distorted self-directed is that aggression is displayed differently by feedback in comparison to their judgments girls, and thus is not adequately assessed by of other-directed feedback. Both African- such commonly used aggression measures as American and Caucasian subjects demon- "Who starts fights, picks on other kids, and strated this tendency, but African-American teases them?" Preliminary research by Crick subjects distorted more than Caucasian sub- and Grotpeter (1995) suggests that girls disjects. Unlike aggressive-rejected boys, how- play a more subtle form of aggression that is ever, African-American subjects distorted more verbal, focusing on social exclusion much more when the feedback was nega- and relationship destruction rather than tive. This finding suggests a self-protective physical dominance and control. mechanism: Under conditions where threat to self was greatest (self-directed, negative Future Directions feedback), African-American subjects were While this series of studies points to immore self-enhancing. However, African- portant differences in the way subgroups of American subjects did not report that they rejected children interpret their social expeliked the protagonists more than they riences, it also will be important to better thought the video targets liked the protago- understand the actiial social experiences of nists. In sum, they appeared to be saying, these two groups of rejected children. Al"He liked me better than he liked the other though we have used the tei-m "distortion" guy, but I did not like him very much." This to describe the discrepancies in interpreting is different from our findings for aggressive- social fisedback among our subjects, our unrejected children. It suggests that African- derstanding of this interpretive process is American subjects experienced the self- that it is nested within a history of previous directed feedback as negative and had interactions with peers and others. In the reciprocal feelings for their play partners, present study, children only interacted with but simply distorted their reports of how the confederates for 5 min and were then much the negative confederate liked them asked to make judgments about whether the when speaking with the examiner. Thus, we child they played with liked them or not. It would conclude that the ethnicity differ- is possible that given the short interaction ences are less a matter of perceptual distor- time, children based their judgments more tion—the process we think occurs for ag- on their own prior relationship history with gressive-rejected boys—and more a matter other children than on the brief interaction of face-saving behavior with the interview- with the confederate. Since research sugers. In keeping with this explanation is the gests that aggressive-rejected children may finding that the African-American subjects receive less clear feedback about peer dis-


Child Development
even at this later point in development. Future research on this topic should include children both younger and older than those included in the present study. Fuicher research on how other factors that distinguish aggressive-rejected and nonaggressive-rejected children may infiuence their interpretation of rejection feedback is also needed. For example, social intelligence factors may differentiate aggressive-rejected and nonaggressive-rejected children and may have infiuenced how well the two groups were able to process the information presented to them in the brief, 5min interaction. Aggressive-nonrejected children should also be assessed to determine what role aggression, independent of rejection, plays in children's interpretations of rejection feedback. A final avenue for future research involves testing the limits ofthe distortions we observed in this study to help us better understand their source. Although we have hypothesized that aggressive-rejected boys truly distorted the interactions they experienced, whereas African-American boys simply chose to report that they were liked more than they were, further research is needed to support these hypotheses. One possible strategy for such a study would be to offer a prize to subjects for accurate assessment of the peer feedback and inform subjects that the confederate told the experimenter how much he actually liked them. If distortions were found to diminish under such conditions, it could be concluded that the feedback was accurately read and that the problem rests in reporting self-derogatory information. Understanding the source of the distortions we have observed in this series of studies will help us to understand their function and their role in status maintenance and treatment resistance. For example, Crocker and Major (1989) suggest that the types of self-protective mechanisms employed by oppressed minority groups are adaptive. However, it seems that the types of distortions employed by aggressive-rejected boys may contribute to their peer difficulties and serve to sustain their low social status. Rejection has been demonstrated to be more stable for aggressive-rejecte'd than for nonaggressive-rejected boys (Cillessen et al., 1992). Because self-awareness of one's problems may be a necessary precursor for behavior change, poor self-awareness may contribute to these problems of status conti-

like than nonaggressive-rejected children (Boivin et al., 1991; Coie et al., 1991), it is possible that they rated the self-directed feedback more positively than nonaggressive-rejected boys, relative to their ratings of other-directed feedback, because their prior experiences with peers were inconsistent with this negative feedback. That is, aggressive-rejected boys and average status boys may have similar histories of peer feedback, in general, even though peers actually feel differently about them. In the case of the aggressive-rejected boys, peers may hold back their resentment and dislike lest they provoke retaliation and abuse from these boys (Coie et al., 1991). Developmentally, it will be important to understand at what point rejection experiences differ for these two groups of rejected children, and how these differences might give rise to the differences we observed in the reading of social feedback. A longitudinal study of peer rejection experiences and status awareness is an important next step. In such a study the possibility that an inability to read peer feedback leads to aggressive-rejection might also be examined. Longitudinal research can also inform us about the point at which these differences in status awareness emerge and whether they might decrease with age and advancing social-cognitive abilities. Preliminary, crosssectional research by Rabiner and Keane (1991) suggests that aggressive-rejected and nonaggressive-rejected children's interpretations of rejection are similar until late elementary school. In second grade, both aggressive- and nonaggressive-rejected children reported poor peer treatment. However, in fifth grade, nonaggressive-rejected children reported significantly better peer treatment than others. It is unclear from this study whether this shift in rejection perceptions results from an improvement in actual peer treatment of aggressive-rejected children, or whether it demonstrates an emerging self-protective bias which may have developed as a method of coping with chronic rejection. Either way, these data suggest that the difference we observed would not be present in younger rejected children, and may persist even in older rejected children without intervention. Research on rejected subgroup differences in loneliness and interpersonal concerns in middle school (Parkhurst & Asher, 1992) supports this hypothesis by suggesting that aggressive-rejected and submissive-rejected children remain different in their perceptions of rejection

Zakriski and Coie
nuity. However, as suggested earlier, poor status awareness also may act as a temporary buffer against depression and low self"esteem for aggressive-rejected children. Finding ways to help aggressive-rejected children incorporate accurate assessments of peer feelings toward them in a way that allows them to benefit from this feedback and be motivated to make changes in their behavior will be a challenge for future intervention research on this topic.


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