Starting Out Early: What Parents Need to Know About Peer Relationships (page 2)

By — Bullying Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Feb 11, 2009

Are Shy Children More At Risk?

Shy and withdrawn children are also likely to experience peer rejection and victimization (27). However, the problems associated with these qualities are more likely to occur at a later age because the attributes of shyness and other forms of social anxiety are less salient and obvious to preschoolers. Even if particular behaviors become associated with peer difficulties during late childhood and adolescence (15), these characteristics are present and identifiable before entry to school (28). Identifying these behaviors early and assessing whether or not they lead to later difficulties may help in preventing peer relation problems later on. Close friendships, both in preschool and beyond, may protect children from both the occurrence and impact of negative peer experiences (28, 29, 30). These processes may also operate in preschool.


Individual differences in social and emotional adjustment may be noticed as soon as peer groups are formed. A significant number of preschoolers will experience peer relationship difficulties such as rejection and harassment, and these negative experiences could have an impact on their social and emotional adjustment and development. How are emergent social behaviors involved in determining peer relation issues? The answer isn’t always clear. Aggression is clearly involved, but in complex ways. Not only are these behaviors significantly associated with peer relationship difficulties, but they are also embedded in a social network that may promote aggressive tendencies. Other behavioral traits, such as shyness and a withdrawn attitude, might not be associated with peer difficulties in preschool, but may lead to peer rejection and victimization in late childhood. Clearly identifying the social and emotional traits that put children at risk for peer relation difficulties can aid in the establishment of more keenly focused support and prevention programs.


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