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Post No.: 0520peers


Furrywisepuppy says:


Children often experience social rejection from their peers, but different children handle it differently. Rejected-aggressive children (as opposed to rejected-withdrawn children) often underestimate how rejected they are by their peers – meaning that they may continue to be aggressive towards others because they have a difficult time with their social skills and think that their aggressive behaviour isn’t a problem. These children are thus unlikely to adapt their behaviours and so will likely remain rejected. Rejected-aggressive children are the most severely rejected group, the most victimised group by bullies and are most likely to be bullies themselves. They may therefore face more stressors than others and may experience the most frustration and the ‘hostile attribution bias’.


This is a tendency to interpret other people’s ambiguous behaviours as hostile and deliberate, rather than benign or accidental, such as when a child sees his/her peers whispering things, which leads to him/her automatically assuming that these other people don’t appreciate, or even hate, him/her, which in turn could lead to him/her behaving aggressively or passive-aggressively towards them in ‘retaliation’. This will then cause these other people to genuinely dislike him/her in a self-fulfilling way (this highlights the general problem with jumping to conclusions regarding other people’s ambiguous behaviours). This all results in a downward vicious cycle of rejection and rejection-causing behaviours when they interact with their peers.


Young children who are generally intelligent (according to IQ tests) will tend to have greater social problem-solving skills and will experience lower frustration and aggression, which in turn mediates or helps bring about their greater popularity amongst their peers. But as young children become adolescents – being intelligent, and therefore being more favoured by teachers and parents (who are adults) is typically seen as gradually less ‘cool’ during this more rebellious age for they’ll be seen as conforming to the desires of adults. This trend reverses to a middle-ground as people enter university age, and then leans towards finding intelligence desirable again when people become parents themselves.


This mightn’t be true in non-western cultures though, and it’s also more nuanced than this – young children correlate effort and ability with popularity, whereas adolescents tend to deem peers who receive good grades but aren’t perceived to be trying hard as popular, whilst peers who receive good grades and care about their grades are deemed the least popular of all. So it’s more about the perceptions/image of effort and care, or lack thereof, because most adolescents who normally obtain relatively low grades do care about getting good grades deep inside of them. So adolescents must seemingly (pretend to) not care about their grades and (pretend to) do the opposite of what adults want them to do when they’re around their peers. One must ironically conform in being a rebel in order to be popular at that age!


They must overall balance doing well academically with participating in social activities (e.g. parties, sports) because both academic performance and social skills are important for later life. Make no mistake that adolescents do care about things though – adolescence is the age group most likely to be involved in activism.


Conforming to the norm (e.g. the current culturally normative values, attitudes, behaviours, sociability, cromulent level of geekiness) is probably the greatest factor in improving one’s popularity as an adult – for example, one needs to not flatter one’s boss too much yet not be slack when part of a team, in order to be popular in the workplace. Fitting in improves popularity on the one paw, but can be regarded as boring and less creative on another.


Modern social media plays to and feeds our desire to be popular, for better and for worse. At its worse, it leads to so much slagging and social comparing, which feeds jealousy when we see other people – our peers in particular – being a bit more popular than us (according to their follower counts) or doing more fun things than us (e.g. seeing posts about their constant fancy holidays). People may check up on the social media pages of people they’ve not seen or heard from in years, not necessarily out of a true concern for them but for being nosey and secretly following them online in the hope that they’re doing relatively badly. This could be due to feeling envious about someone and just wanting to feel better about oneself, but this strategy seldom works because they’ll rarely find any dirt on that person because people tend to only curate stories and photos that show their most desirable sides on social media, thus they’ll end up just hating themselves even more for wasting their own time. We should save that time and just get on with our own lives and concentrate on our real friends.


No one is saying that social media is inherently problematic for young people but online bullying, getting insufficient sleep and more sedentary leisure activities are potential problems linked with too much, or the wrong kind of, social media usage. (It’s like food isn’t inherently problematic but obesity is a real health issue linked with food hence we’ve got to look at the problems of consuming too much or the wrong kinds of food.) Children also need to learn about online safety.


Bragging and snobbish behaviour from intelligent young children may be tolerated by adults and relatively tolerated by other young children, but when they become adolescents and adults themselves, this very same behaviour is generally far less tolerated. It might therefore be better for a young child’s future to let them know that their bigheaded behaviour won’t win them favours when older, before they get older, rather than passively believe that ‘he/she’s only a child and will grow out of it’, because he/she might not. Intelligent and introverted children may also find it more mentally-stimulating to read and study rather than go out with their peers to socialise, thus they’ll miss opportunities to mingle with their peers and refine their social confidence, which will contribute to reinforce their potential lack of popularity over time too.


A parent’s social competence (e.g. social beliefs, skills, networks), any psychopathologies (e.g. personality disorders) and other factors can influence their child’s social attitudes, behaviours and peer relations too. Our own childhood experiences will therefore affect how we’ll in turn socialise our children as parents and allow them to develop their social skills – children copy their parents in how they socially interact and parents who believe that it’s important to make friends and be socially nice towards others will emphasise and instruct these points to their children too. (The instinct to copy is stronger than reason e.g. we know that when others bark at us it doesn’t work yet we’ll find it hard not to bark back at others when they bark at us! Woof!)


How parents recollect their own childhoods with regards to their social experiences can reveal their attitudes, hopes and fears toward their children’s social interactions too – if their recollections are positive then they’ll more likely be relaxed and positive about their children making good friends too, but if they’re negative then they’ll more likely be anxious, protective and cautious about letting their children freely meet and confidently mingle with new peers to form friendships. This means that our children are likely to be influenced to feel the same positivity, anxiousness or withdrawal in social contexts as us.


If a parent had generally negative social experiences when they were themselves young then they can help their children have a far more positive experience than theirs by putting in an extra effort in the home environment to encourage their children to be nice, to share and to make friends. They could do this by leading by example in being polite and sociable to others, actually playing with their children themselves regularly (both rough-and-tumble as well as turn-taking play), and initiating both structured and unstructured activities with and for their children. They should allow their children to visit, as well as invite over, their school friends now and again. They should provide a warm, supportive yet appropriately strict parenting style (so neither excessively permissive nor draconian), and outwardly express their emotions with their children in appropriate and adaptive ways (e.g. by letting them know when they’re feeling happy or sad and explaining these emotions to them).


Parents should play a supervisory role and be interested in their children’s social interactions yet not be too much of a ‘helicopter parent’ – this means being very much directly present when they’re young in social contexts, and then gradually becoming less and less so as they grow older yet still being interested indirectly by asking about their day regularly. They should coach their children to make sure they’re initiating contacts, interacting, establishing new relationships and repairing fractured relationships in considerate and diplomatic ways – even during arguments between their children and their peers and even if they’re feeling hesitant or shy – in order to keep their children’s peer relations ongoing, positive and healthy. Other adults, such as uncles and aunts, can proactively help cultivate this positive social environment for kids too.


Not routinely letting one’s children go out to play with their friends or to parties after school can have a major negative impact on their social life and therefore life and mental health in general in the long term. When parents do this, it isn’t necessarily about mollycoddling one’s children but about the (irrational) fear of one’s children being specifically picked-on, kidnapped and/or not trusting one’s own children to not fall into the wrong crowds. (This is more common with first-generation immigrant parents who’ve come to settle in a vastly different country and (over)protecting their children from the racism they’ve themselves experienced in their new country. Racism will statistically make their children greater targets by bullies, as well as by the authorities.)


But whether it’s about (over)protection, being overbearing, not trusting one’s own children or whatever – it’s not ideal for their social development. Being supportive for growth is ‘I will let you free but I’m always here for you’, whereas stifling growth is ‘I don’t want to let you free in case something happens and I’ll have to deal with the stress and mess’. (What can also happen is that emigrants who don’t regularly visit their motherland can sometimes assume that the culture and traditions of their motherland have stayed fixed since they left. They have strong memories of when they were living there a decade or two ago, but like in most places around the world, things would’ve changed, such as the country’s affluence and diets. So while their current country is changing with the times, they’re still trying to live and raise their second-generation children according to the belief that their motherland country hasn’t changed with the times too.)


Popular children can be highly influential amongst their peers since people like to copy what their peers do, especially those they like or want to be like (this includes celebrities too). But this copying is sometimes based on faulty perceptions and stereotypes. This is because children frequently exaggerate what they do to elevate their own statuses. Even without exaggeration, kids tend to overestimate what the popular kids are doing and so end up trying to match these faulty perceptions. This means that popular children can influence the behaviours of those around them, not just directly but also indirectly via misperceptions.


Popularity is desirable, as pointed out in Post No.: 0296, but it’s important to recognise that being popular isn’t the exact same thing as having lots of friends. Even regarding friendships, it’s not really about how many friends one has but the quality and good influence of those friendships. And almost every child will have like-minded peers, from the athletic types to the studious types and everyone inbetween, thus there’s often a misperception that ‘nerds’ have fewer friends than ‘jocks’ – ‘nerds’ have other ‘nerds’ as much as other stereotyped people have other stereotyped people!




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