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Social network profiles of children in early elementary school classrooms.

This study characterized the social network roles and peer relationship features of early elementary school-age children from kindergarten to 2nd grade. Children were asked to identify who they liked and did not like to play with and peer groups who played together from their classroom. Consistent with the literature, we found similar patterns for outward friendship nominations and friendship reciprocity by group centrality status. However, the authors found more complex associations between children's gender, grade level, and centrality status on the number of received nominations, rejections, and total number of connections. These results shed light on the multifaceted nature of children's peer relationships at school.

Keywords: social networks, friendship, rejection, peer relationships


Peer relationships begin to emerge in the first years of life; by age 3, preferences for specific peers and peer rejection become apparent (Hay, Payne, & Chadwick, 2004). In later childhood, children begin to form a network of relationships--some positive and some negative--with their peers. As the number of peer relationships increase, fixed problems with peer relations start to develop, such as loneliness, bullying, and victimization (Gifford-Smith & Brownell, 2003; Hay et al., 2004). Researchers have examined children's social networks to gain a better understanding of children's social relationships (Hinde & Stevenson-Hinde, 1987; Strayer & Santos, 1996). Using peer nominations, we can identify where children lie within their classroom's social network, such as whether they are seen as having a more central role or being more on the periphery. Additionally, we can examine more complex relationship features, such as friendship reciprocity and peer rejection.

These different social network roles and peer relationship features have been shown to have implications for children's social and emotional development (see Gifford-Smith & Brownell, 2003, for a review). However, most research in this area focuses on middle and late childhood, rather than early elementary school, when children begin to spend increasing amounts of time with same-age peers and when they have the opportunity to develop and practice social skills important for later development (Boivin, Vitaro, & Poulin, 2005; Ladd, 2006). In this study, we were interested in examining the social network roles and relationship features of early elementary school children and the function that age and gender plays in these different roles.

Children's Peer Nominations, Network Status, and Outcomes

With peer nominations, children within a classroom are asked to identify, or nominate, peers with whom they like to interact the most (positive nominations) and peers with whom they like to interact the least (negative nominations). Thus, children in a network may either receive positive peer nominations, negative peer nominations, or may not be nominated at all. Children who are named frequently are therefore perceived as being more relevant among those in a peer group than those who are named less frequently or those who are not named, and research

has demonstrated that varying outcomes are associated with whether children receive nominations, as well as the types of nominations they receive.

Children with a more central network status generally have more positive peer nominations than negative peer nominations. Receiving more positive peer nominations is associated with a number of benefits. First and foremost, what appears to be important is "belonging," as positive peer relationships can serve as protective factors in overall development (Hay et al., 2004). In preschool, having the skills to competently sustain group interactions is associated with enhanced school readiness (Hanish & Rodkin, 2007). In 1st grade, children in dyads or included in groups were better adjusted than isolated children and demonstrated fewer externalizing behaviors than their isolated counterparts (Witvliet, van Lier, Cuijpers, & Koot, 2010).

Furthermore, having friends carries with it even more positive impacts on children's overall development. Within the schema of social networks, friendship is considered to exist when two children mutually positively nominate each other. This reciprocal relationship brings along with it benefits, such as emotional security, ego support and validation, intimacy, and affection, and offers a forum for the development of social competence (Asher & Parker, 1989). More importantly, friendships may serve as a buffer against future difficulties in adjustment (see Gifford-Smith & Brownell, 2003, for a brief review).

At the opposite end of the spectrum, children with a less central peer network status either receive negative nominations or no nominations. Children who receive negative peer nominations are considered to be rejected by their peers, whereas children who receive no nominations are seen as being neglected. Children experiencing social isolation are often at the highest risk for later maladjustment (Gifford-Smith & Brownell, 2003), which often leads to negative overall outcomes for children. For instance, being rejected by peers often leads to more negative affect, less social competence, loneliness and solitude, bullying/victimization, emotional and conduct disorders, and deviant friendships and peer groups (Gifford-Smith & Brownell, 2003; Hay et al., 2004; Lansford et al., 2007). Rejection in early childhood also predicts future psychosocial problems, such as delinquency, poor academic performance, school dropout, and substance abuse (Coie, Lochman, Terry, & Hyman, 1992; Kupersmidt, Coie, & Dodge, 1990; Zettergren, 2005).

Gender- and Age-Related Differences in Young Children's Social Networks

With regard to network formation, younger children are more likely to orient toward those who share similar characteristics (Gifford-Smith & Brownell, 2003). For instance, gender appears to be one of the largest dividers in early years, and children's peer relationships are often found to be strongly gender segregated (Hanish & Rodkin, 2007; Maccoby, 1998). Maccoby's (1998) two-cultures theory posits that girls prefer to play in smaller groups, with close relationships and intimacy being emphasized, whereas boys prefer to play in larger groups that emphasize group activities. However, social network studies have found mixed support for this two-cultures theory (Hanish & Rodkin, 2007; Lee, Howes, & Chamberlain, 2007; Neal, 2010) and have suggested that perhaps there is also an age-related component associated with sex differences in network composition that is more apparent in younger children's networks than in those of older children (Barbu, 2003; Chamberlain, Kasari, & Rotheram-Fuller, 2007; Neal, 2010; van den Oord, Rispens, Goudena, & Vermande, 2000).

Furthermore, this developmental age-related trend may also affect the size of children's peer networks, with network size increasing by age or grade among preschoolers and elementary school students (Putallaz & Wasserman, 1989; Rubin & Coplan, 1998; Strayer & Santos, 1996; Vespo, Kerns, & O'Connor, 1996). Children initially engage in play that is either solitary or play that takes place next to, but does not interact with, their classmates (Rubin & Coplan, 1998). As such, their social networks are generally smaller; however, as children grow older and begin to engage in more complex forms of play that requires more interactional partners, their social networks grow larger (Hanish, Martin, Fabes, & Barcelo, 2008). Gender-related differences can be seen in network sizes as well, with girls in grade school more likely to belong to a social network group and to have larger social networks than their male counterparts (Lee et al., 2007).

This Study

The objective of this study was to characterize various aspects of early elementary school-age children's social functioning using a free-recall sociometric methodology. We were interested in further understanding the relationship between social network roles and friendship features, given the implication that healthy, or unhealthy, social development in even young children has for their later development. In particular, we wanted to examine whether there were gender- and grade-related differences in peer relationship features in relation to children's network centrality status. We hypothesized that (1) young children who held a more central status in their social classroom would have higher levels of positive peer relationship features and lower levels of negative peer relationship features than those children who held a less central status and (2) that children's gender and grade would have an impact on this relationship between network centrality and peer relationship features.



For this study, 378 children participated. Children recruited were from kindergarten, 1st-grade, and 2nd-grade classrooms in six different elementary schools in a large urban area, for a total of 18 different classrooms. There was an average of 21 children in a classroom (range: 15-24). Given the nature of the Friendship Survey (see below), data were generated for all children in each of the 18 classrooms: 75 children were in kindergarten ([M.sub.age] = 5.03 years, SD = .63), 204 children in 1st grade ([M.sub.age] = 6.51, SD = .58), and 99 children in 2nd grade ([M.sub.age] = 6.95, SD = .71). In kindergarten, there were 36 girls and 39 boys; in 1st grade, there were 101 girls and 103 boys; and in 2nd grade, there were 52 girls and 47 boys.


Social Networks and Friendship Survey. Using the Social Networks and Friendship Survey (Friendship Survey; Cairns, Cairns, Neckerman, Gest, & Gariepy, 1988), participating children were asked to freely recall who they "liked to hang out with" and who they "did not like to hang out with" in their classroom. From this child-generated list, the child was then instructed to circle his or her top three best friends and to star one best friend from the circled names. In addition, participating students were asked, "Are there kids in your class who like to hang out together? Who are they?" This free-recall method was used rather than providing a list of children's names or pictures because the relative strength of children's tendency to recall classmates is an important indicator of the peers' salience in the classroom's social structure and provides a robust picture of the full set of networks (Cairns et al., 1988).


Consent forms were distributed to parents of children in participating kindergarten, 1st-grade, and 2nd-grade classrooms. Once 40% to 50% of the class agreed to participate (40%-50% cutoff points in consents allows the Friendship Survey to be reliably scored), those children allowed to participate in the study were asked to sign an assent form. All children who consented and assented were administered the Friendship Survey. Individual interviews for the Friendship Survey were conducted for those children who had difficulty reading and/or writing. The surveys were then coded for peer relationship features and social network centrality using the methods described below.

Coding indegrees, outdegrees, classroom connections, rejections, and friendship reciprocity. Consistent with previous research using the Friendship Survey, the following five peer relationship variables were coded from the Friendship Survey: indegrees, outdegrees, classroom connections, rejections, and friendship reciprocity (Chamberlain et al., 2007; Kasari, Locke, Gulsrud, & Rotheram-Fuller, 2011). Indegrees were coded as the total number of received friendship nominations from peers (e.g., the number of times Sally was chosen as a friend by her classmates), whereas outdegrees were coded as the total number of outward friendship nominations by the child (e.g., the number of classmates Sally selected as her friend). Rejections were coded as the total number of times children were identified as someone other children "did not like to hang out with." Children's classroom connections were coded as the total number of peers who were significantly and positively correlated to the child on the social network map. See Figure 1 for an example of the social networks in a classroom. Data were generated for each of the aforementioned variables, with the exception of outdegrees, for all children in the classroom due to the nature of the free-recall nomination procedure that was employed. However, only those children who completed a survey bad outdegrees, because that code is specific to child reports.

Last, children were considered to have reciprocal friendships if they selected each other as their top three or best friends within the classroom. For example, Sally and Johnny were considered reciprocal friends if Sally chose Johnny as one of her best friends and he selected her as one of his best friends in return. A conservative method of determining reciprocal friendships was used, such that when one of the students nominated was absent, or did not complete the measure, it was coded as missing data instead of a nonreciprocated friendship.

Coding social network centrality. Following Cairns and Cairns (1994), social network analyses were conducted to obtain each child's social network centrality score. Three related scores were calculated in order to determine a student's level of involvement in the classroom's social networks: (1) the student's "individual centrality," derived from the number of times the child was nominated to any friendship group; (2) the "cluster centrality," derived from the average number of the two highest connected members' total number of times nominated to any friendship group; and (3) the student's combined "social network centrality" score (see Figure 1). Using methods developed by Cairns and Cairns (1994), the first two types of centrality were used to determine the third (Cairns, Gariepy, & Kindermann, 1990; Farmer & Farmer, 1996). Based on categorizations by Farmer and Farmer (1996), four levels of social network centrality were derived from the social network centrality score: isolated, peripheral, secondary, and nuclear. We grouped children into two network centrality groups, isolated/peripheral and secondary/nuclear, to provide a system for describing how well each child was integrated into his or her peer networks. Isolated/peripheral children were those who held a less central network status, while secondary/nuclear children were those who held a more central network status. Figure 1 is an example of the social networks within one of the classrooms in our study.

Statistical methods. A three-way analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) model was constructed individually for each continuous outcome to determine whether characteristics of peer relationships (i.e., indegrees, outdegrees, rejections, classroom connections, friendship reciprocity) were different between young children classified as isolated/peripheral and secondary/nuclear in their classroom social networks. In each model, we tested for group (isolated/peripheral and secondary/nuclear), gender, and grade-related differences, as well as two-way (i.e., Group x Gender, Group x Grade, Grade x Gender) and three-way interactions (i.e., Group x Gender x Grade). We controlled for classroom size in all of the models where class size affected children's possible outcomes (e.g., the number of friendship nominations, connections, rejections, etc.). All analyses were conducted using PASW Statistics version 18. The number of children, as well as means and standard deviations for peer relationship features, by social network centrality, grade, and gender, can be found in Table 1. F-statistics for all following analyses are presented in Table 2.


Social Network Centrality by Gender and Grade

Overall, there were 128 children classified as isolated/peripheral and 250 children classified as secondary/nuclear. There were no differences in social network centrality group status by gender, [chi square] (1, n = 378) = .76, p = n.s. There were, however, differences in social network centrality group status by grade, [chi square] (2, n = 378) = 7.07, p < .05, with generally 30% or less of children classified as isolated/peripheral in kindergarten and 2nd grade, but 40% in the more central group in 1st grade (see Table 3).

We also examined whether there were differences in group status by gender and grade combined. For children in kindergarten, there was the greatest discrepancy between boys and girls classified as isolated/peripheral, with 35.9% of boys being classified in this less central group status as opposed to 22.2% of girls. For children in 1st grade, approximately 40% of boys and girls were classified as isolated/peripheral, and for children in 2nd grade, approximately 25% of boys and girls were classified as isolated/peripheral, with the rest being categorized as secondary/nuclear (see Table 3).


Results indicated that there was a significant main effect of group status, F(1, 386) = 92.74, p < 0.001, [[eta].sup.2] = .19. Children classified as secondary/nuclear had significantly higher indegree, or more classmates selecting them as a friend, than those children classified as isolated/peripheral: secondary/nuclear: M(SD) = 3.92 (2.03); isolated/peripheral: M(SD) = 1.77 (1.37). Additionally, there was a significant two-way interaction between Group and Gender, F(1,386) = 3.94, p < 0.05. Post hoc tests suggested that girls classified as secondary/nuclear had higher indegrees than boys classified as secondary/nuclear, but that boys classified as isolated/peripheral had higher indegrees than girls classified as isolated/peripheral (see Table 4).

We did not find significant main effects of either gender, F(1,386) =. 14, p = n.s., or grade, F(2, 386) = .06, p = n.s. We also did not find a significant two-way interaction between Group Status and Grade, F(2, 386) = .008, p = n.s., or Gender and Grade, F(2, 386) = 1.34, p = n.s., nor a significant three-way interaction between Group Status, Grade, and Gender, F(2, 386) = .80, p = n.s.


Results indicated that there was a significant main effect of Group Status, F(1, 278) = 4.33, p < 0.05, [[eta].sup.2] = .02. Children classified as secondary/nuclear had significantly more outdegrees, or outward friendship nominations, than children classified as isolated/peripheral: secondary/nuclear: M(SD) = 4.49 (1.94); isolated/peripheral: M(SD) = 3.94 (2.51).

We did not find significant main effects of either Gender, F(1,278) = 1.11, p = n.s., or Grade, F(2, 278) = 1.66, p = n.s. We also did not find a significant two-way interaction between Group Status and Grade, F(2, 278) = 1.66, p = n.s., Group Status and Gender, F(1,278) = .67, p = n.s., Grade and Gender, F(2, 278) = 2.79, p = n.s., nor a significant three-way interaction between Group Status, Grade, and Gender, F(2, 278) =1.88, p = n.s.


After controlling for class size, the results indicated that there was a significant main effect of Group, F(1, 386) = 4.46, p < 0.05, [[eta].sup.2] = .01, where children classified as secondary/nuclear had significantly more rejections than those classified as isolated/peripherah secondary/nuclear: M(SD) = 1.34 (1.62); isolated/peripherah M(SD) = 1.03 (1.45). In addition, there was a significant main effect of Grade, F(1,386) = 5.03, p < 0.01, [[eta].sup.2] = .03, where children in older grades received more rejection nominations than children in younger grades: 2nd grade: M(SD) = 1.23 (1.57); 1st grade: M(SD) = 1.08 (1.36); kindergarten: M(SD) = .82 (1.14), as well as a significant main effect of Gender, F(1,386) = 14.35, p < 0.05, [[eta].sup.2] =.04, where boys received more rejection nominations than girls: boys: M(SD) = 1.57 (1.76); girls: M(SD) = .86 (1.24).

There was also a significant two-way interaction between Group and Grade, F(2, 386) = 4.17, p < 0.05. Post hoc tests suggested that though there were a similar number of rejections by social network centrality status in kindergarten and 1st grade, children in 2nd grade classified as secondary/nuclear had, on average, over twice as many rejections than those classified as isolated/peripheral (see Table 5).

We did not find a significant two-way interaction between Group Status and Gender, F(1,386) = 1.76, p = n.s., or Grade and Gender, F(2, 386) = .54, p = n.s.. We also did not find a significant three-way interaction between Group Status, Grade, and Gender, F(2, 386) = 2.37, p = n.s., for the number of rejections received.

Classroom Connections

Results indicated that there was a significant main effect of Group, F(1, 386) = 18.38, p < 0.001, where children classified as secondary/nuclear had significantly more classroom connections than those classified as isolated/peripheral: secondary/nuclear: M(SD) = 3.44 (1.72); isolated/peripheral: M(SD) = 2.31 (1.85).

Additionally, there was a significant three-way interaction between Group and Grade and Gender, F(2, 386) = 4.17, p < 0.05, [[eta].sup.2] = .02. Boys classified as isolated/peripheral had more classroom connections in older grades, but the number of connections for girls classified as isolated/peripheral generally remained the same. Boys classified as secondary/nuclear had fewer classroom connections in older grades, but girls classified as secondary/nuclear had more classroom connections in older grades (see Figure 2).

We did not find significant main effects of Grade, F(2, 386) = 2.55, p = n.s., or Gender, F(1, 386) = .003, p = n.s. We also did not find a significant two-way interaction between Group Status and Grade, F(2, 386) = 2.15, p = n.s., Group Status and Gender, F(1,386) = .10, p = n.s., and Grade and Gender, F(2, 386) = .38, p = n.s., for classroom connections.

Friendship Reciprocity

Results indicated that there was a significant main effect of Group, F(1, 266) = 20.68, p < 0.001, [[eta].sup.2] = .07. Children classified as secondary/nuclear had significantly higher rates of friendship reciprocity as compared to those classified as isolated/peripheral: secondary/nuclear: [M.sub.percentage](SD) = 55.78 (37.42); isolated/peripheral: [M.sub.percentage](SD) = 28.38 (37.81).

We did not find significant main effects of Grade, F(2, 266) = 1.74, p = n.s., or Gender, F(1, 266) = 2.82, p = n.s. We also did not find a significant two-way interaction between Group Status and Grade, F(2, 266) = .19, p = n.s., Group Status and Gender, F(1,266) = .75, p = n.s., or Grade and Gender, F(2, 266) = 1.47, p = n.s., nor a significant three-way interaction between Group Status, Grade, and Gender, F(2, 266) = .51, p = n.s., for friendship reciprocity.


The primary aims of this study were to explore gender- and grade-related differences among various aspects of social functioning between social network centrality groupings of early elementary schoolchildren. Although there were only grade-related differences with regard to the percentage of children in terms of group centrality status, consistent with previous research (Gifford-Smith & Brownell, 2003), our analyses indicated that, overall, there were expected patterns with regard to peer relationship variables by group centrality status, in that children classified as secondary/nuclear had higher values of positive peer relationship variables (i.e., indegrees, outdegrees, classroom connections, and friendship reciprocity) and lower values of negative peer relationship variables (i.e., rejections) as compared to children classified as isolated/peripheral.

However, when children's grade and gender were taken into account, we found differing patterns with regard to indegrees, rejections, and children's total number of classroom connections. Namely, when looking at the number of nominations children received, or indegrees, children's gender played a role, such that girls with a more central group status received more nominations than boys with a more central group status. The situation, however, was reversed for children with a less central group status, such that girls received fewer nominations than boys with a less central group status. Given that we did not find any gender differences in reciprocated friendships, these higher numbers of received nominations by girls with a more central network status may indicate that these girls are seen by their peers as being more desirable to hang out with, which may signify some metric of popularity or desired social status. If so, this may be a reflection of the fact that sociometrically popular children are often considered to demonstrate higher levels of social competence and social skills than their less-popular counterparts (Gifford-Smith & Brownell, 2003). One possibility for the finding that girls in this study with a more central group status would receive more nominations than boys with a more central group status, may be that some girls are often considered to be more socially skilled than boys (Ruble, Martin, & Berenbaum, 2006) and may be exhibiting more advanced levels of social competence. Additionally, based on informal observations through our work, we speculate that some girls carry more social power at younger ages than do boys and are more salient in the classroom and are able to more proficiently direct the social scene.

When looking at the number of rejections received, grade level played a role in conjunction with group centrality status. After controlling for class size, children with a more central group status generally had more rejections than children with a less central group status, and the number of rejections increased as children's grade increased. As children grow older, the size of their peer networks sometimes increases, thereby possibly providing more opportunities for problems to arise. Additionally, children also may become more selective regarding with whom they want to play and will begin to exclude others from their groups. Another possible reason for the increasing number of rejections as children's grade increased may be due to the increasing cognitive development of the children, who may be able to be more reflective on who they like and do not like even if they cannot explain their rationale for such decisions. These patterns have been shown to continue into upper elementary school, where cliques begin to solidify and dyads break off (Farmer et al., 2009; Hay et al., 2004). As children grow older, the nature of friendships change and we are beginning to see some evidence of this even as early as 2nd grade. Our findings demonstrate that children begin to differentiate between who their friends are from children in their classrooms whom they do not like, thus suggesting that 2nd grade may be a critical period for children at risk for peer rejection.

Finally, there was a Gender, Grade, and Group Centrality status interaction effect on children's total number of classroom connections. With regard to classroom connections, we found some evidence to support Maccoby's (1998) two-cultures approach to gender segregation in peer groups, but also some evidence that did not support her approach. Boys with a less central group status had increasingly more classroom connections as their grade increased. This may have been driven by age and/or grade-related changes in the arena of social development, with these less-central status boys becoming involved in more group activities, such as sports, or simply becoming more skilled at playing with others (Barbu, Cabanes, & Le Maner-Idrissi, 2011). Additionally, for boys who are considered to be isolated/peripheral, even if they partake in these group activities in a more passive manner such as standing on the sidelines rather than being actively engaged, they may still be considered to be "connected" with their peers, thereby expanding their social networks and increasing the number of connections they may have.

However, contrary to Maccoby's (1998) two-cultures approach, boys in this study with a more central group status had increasingly fewer classroom connections as their grade increased while girls with a more central group status had increasingly more classroom connections as their grade increased. Much research has found that boys, especially as they grow older, tend to be found in larger and more integrated groups, while girls tend to be found in smaller groups (Maccoby, 1998; Rose & Rudolph, 2006). Given that we controlled for class size in our analyses, our findings cannot be explained simply by the availability of peers, or lack thereof, with whom to interact. There is, however, some evidence to support that children with a more central network status belong to larger peer groups than children with a less central network status (Benenson, Apostoleris, & Parnass, 1998), which we are seeing evidence of among the girls in this study who have a more central status. For boys, on the other hand, perhaps they are engaged in more dyadic interactions outside the classroom, such as play dates focusing on videogames, which may provide a possible explanation for why their number of classroom connections does not increase.

Taken together, these findings indicate that children's network centrality and peer relationship features are complicated, but that a number of factors, such as gender and age/grade, as well as factors beyond the scope of this study, need to be taken into consideration to fully comprehend the nature of these social relationships.


Social network studies examine the relationships children form with peers and the salience of individual children and clusters in a classroom. Although this study extends our current understanding of the social networks and peer relationship features of early elementary schoolchildren, there were some limitations to the study. First, the cross-sectional design of this study limits our understanding of what changes might occur across age groups, classrooms, and time. Collecting longitudinal data throughout the elementary school years on the same cohort of children would allow for exploration of children's social relationships across time as well as the stability of young children's social networks and features of peer relationships. Longitudinal studies may help specify a developmental trajectory of children's social relationships that may elucidate when exact challenges and difficulties arise for children with social difficulties. Because friendships focus more on repeated quality interactions surrounding the relationship rather than mere playground associations as children get older (Bukowski, Newcomb, & Hartup, 1998), understanding how children's social relationships change as children age would help inform interventions for children at risk for social rejection and/or maladjustment.

We also do not have information on the ethnicity or socioeconomic status of the children in this study. Collecting data on such characteristics, or on other areas of children's development, such as child-teacher relationships and executive functioning, may have helped further explain our findings. Additionally, we do not have information about the duration of children's knowing each other at the time of data collection. However, as part of the recruitment criteria, children had to be in school for at least one month to establish relationships with each other. This is consistent with previous literature on children's social networks (Cairns & Cairns, 1994; Kasari et al., 2011). Moreover, supplementing children's reports of their peer interactions with reports from other adults, such as parents and/or teachers, or with observations of their classroom interactions, could also have provided data that would have supported the findings of this study.

Finally, we understand that social development occurs in many contexts, and that in this study we only consider the school context. It would also be useful to look at children's social networks in out-of-school contexts, such as in afterschool activities, play groups, and in the family, in order to gain a more complete understanding of children's social networks over a variety of settings.


In this study, we looked at the social networks of early elementary school-age children, an understudied population with regard to the exploration of social networks, to explore how their social network roles were related to various features of peer relationships. Our findings further illustrate the fact that describing children's social functioning is difficult, with children's genders, grade levels, and centrality status interacting with one another with no one pattern fully explaining how children's different grades, genders, and centrality statuses interact with one another when considering such variables as peer connections, reciprocated relationships, and rejections.

During early childhood, a primary developmental task is for children to begin to learn how to coordinate information learned from adults about social rules and beliefs with their own individual perspectives and their interactions with peers (Gallagher, Dadisman, Farmer, Huss, & Hutchins, 2007). Furthermore, using this methodology, risk factors, such as those for isolation or aggression, as well as factors that may promote involvement in dyadic friendships and cliques, can be identified (Witvliet et al., 2010). Thus, in the classroom, teachers and others who work with young children may play an important role, and should take sociometric nominations and children's networks into consideration when promoting productive classroom relationships, along with other individual and contextual factors (Farmer et al., 2009, Rimm-Kaufman & Chiu, 2007).


The study was prepared from a doctoral dissertation and would not have been possible without the support of Bruce Baker, Jeffrey Wood, Carollee Howes, and Connie Kasari. The authors thank the teachers and children who participated in this study. The authors especially appreciate the support of Michelle Dean, Eric Ishijima, Janet Bang, Saara Mahjouri, McKenzie Haught, Mark Kretzmann, Debi Magdaleno, and Elizabeth Fuller, who contributed countless hours of data collection and data entry.


This study was funded in part by a UCLA Dissertation Year Fellowship to the second author.


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DOI: 10.1080/02568543.2013.850128

Jennifer A. Vu

University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware

Jill J. Locke

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Submitted December 30, 2011; accepted March 14, 2012.

Address correspondence to Jennifer A. Vu, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Delaware, 111 Alison West, Newark, DE 19716. E-mail:


Means and Standard Deviations for Relationship
Variables for Children Classified as Isolated/
Peripheral and Secondary/Nuclear by Grade Level
and Gender

Social       Grade   Gender           n     Indegrees     Outdegrees

Isolated/    K       Male             14   2.00(1.56)     2.62(1.61)
Peripheral           Female            8   1.44(1.24)     3.17(1.72)
             1       Male             42   1.60(1.27)     3.69(1.87)
                     Female           39   1.93(1.56)     4.91(2.70)
             2       Male             12   2.20(1.15)     5.00(4.47)
                     Female           13   1.38(1.19)     3.43(1.27)
Secondary/   K       Male             25   3.44(1.91)     4.36(1.26)
Nuclear              Female           28   4.29(2.11)     4.38(1.61)
             1       Male             61   3.62(2.10)     4.11(1.97)
                     Female           62   4.16(2.22)     5.14(2.10)
             2       Male             35   3.92(1.84)     4.00(1.94)
                     Female           39   4.10(1.80)     4.68(2.07)

Social       Grade   Gender   Rejections   Connections    Friendship
network                                                  reciprocity
centrality                                                       (%)

Isolated/    K       Male     1.13(1.46)   1.67(1.45)    30.77(39.02)
Peripheral           Female    .33(.71)    2.78(2.28)    30.50(40.02)
             1       Male     1.48(1.85)   2.12(1.78)    28.64(40.70)
                     Female    .66(.97)    2.17(1.68)    21.38(36.17)
             2       Male     .80(1.15)    3.40(2.20)    52.43(41.33)
                     Female   1.15(1.46)   2.62(2.10)    16.50(18.08)
Secondary/   K       Male     1.37(1.25)   3.81(1.52)    55.57(29.60)
Nuclear              Female    .29(.54)    3.04(1.60)    48.61(35.94)
             1       Male     1.32(1.44)   3.33(1.90)    47.95(40.56)
                     Female    .81(.88)    3.50(1.90)    52.46(39.18)
             2       Male     2.69(2.25)   3.28(1.41)    71.09(36.12)
                     Female   1.59(1.87)   3.72(1.64)    59.70(34.92)

F Statistics for Friendship Features Analyses

                        Main effects

feature          Group     Gender     Grade

Indegrees       92.74 **   0.14      0.06
Outdegrees       4.33 *    1.11      1.66
Rejections       4.46 *   14.35 *    5.03 **
Connections     18.38 **   0.003     2.55
Friendship      20.68 **   2.82      1.74

                        Two-way interactions
                                                    Group x
Friendship      Group x    Group x    Gender x      Gender
feature         Gender     Grade      Grade         x Grade

Indegrees       3.74 *     0.008      1.34           0.80
Outdegrees      0.67       1.66       2.79           1.88
Rejections      1.76       4.17 *     0.54           2.37
Connections     0.10       2.15       0.38           4.17 *
Friendship      0.75       0.19       1.47           0.51

* p < 0.05. ** p < 0.01.

Number of Children by Gender and Age by
Network Centrality Status

               Social network centrality

           Isolated/    Secondary/    [chi
           peripheral    nuclear     square]

Gender                                0.76
  Male         68          121
  Female       60          129
Grade                                7.07 *
  K            22           53
  1            81          123
  2            25           74
Total         128          250

By grade and gender

Male           14           25
Female         8            28
  Male         42           61
  Female       39           62
  Male         12           35
  Female       13           39

* p < 0.05.

Means and Standard Deviations for Total
Number of Indegrees by Social Network
Centrality Status and Gender

Social       Gender   Indegrees
network                 M(SD)

Isolated/    Male     1.79(1.31)
peripheral   Female   1.75(1.45)

Secondary/   Male     3.67(1.98)
nuclear      Female   4.17(2.06)

Means and Standard Deviations
for Total Number of Rejections
by Social Network Centrality
Status and Grade

Social network   Grade   Rejections
centrality                 M (SD)

Isolated/          K     .83(1.28)
peripheral         1     1.10(1.55)
                   2     .96(1.29)
Secondary/         K     .82(1.09)
nuclear            1     1.06(1.22)
                   2     2.14(2.13)
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Author:Vu, Jennifer A.; Locke, Jill J.
Publication:Journal of Research in Childhood Education
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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