Children’s peer relationships in primary classrooms: friendship quality; participant roles in bullying situations; and links to feelings of self-worth and school belonging

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


Peer relationships are important for children’s social development, with good quality friendships linked to well-being and school belonging (Hamm & Faircloth, 2005). Children who have problematic peer relationships (e.g. bullying), risk a range of negative outcomes, are more likely to dislike school and feel disconnected from classmates. Bullying is complex and can vary in its nature, extent and involvement of others. Research has indicated that it is a group-based phenomenon, including not only the perpetrator and victim, but also others who ‘join in’, passively observe and/or try to defend the victim (Salmivalli, 1996). Bullying can also occur within friendship groups (Mishna et al., 2008) but may be less likely to be identified as such. This paper will report on ‘work in progress’ research into the peer relationships of children (aged 9-11 yrs), and links to their feelings of self-worth and school belonging. Children completed an abbreviated version of the ‘About me’ scale (Maras, 2005) to measure their identification with peers, school, and self-worth. They then identified their friends in their class. A Friendship Qualities Scale(Bukowski et al, 1994) was completed which measured the quality of their closest friendship (including positive and negative aspects). Children then completed a peer-nomination activity where they were given a list of behavioural descriptions (based on the ‘participant roles’ in bullying identified by Salmivalli, 1996) and asked to identify who in their class the descriptions best suited. We will report our initial findings into the relationships between friendship quality, school belonging and global self-worth, along with analysis of negative relationships within friendships, and the manifestation of bullying behaviours within the peer group. The paper will highlight the complexity of children’s peer relationships, and how positive relationships, negative interactions and bullying behaviour can co-occur. We will discuss the implications of our findings for schools and educational practitioners.
Period2 Jul 2014
Event titleChild and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) Conference 2014
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionNational