Children's communication style in peer group interactions : variations according to temperament and sociometric status
Peer rejection has frequently been identified as a risk factor for development. Amongst other factors, peer rejection is predicted by the temperamental characteristics that underlie problem behaviours. Research has also demonstrated relationships between communication style and peer rejection, while a possible link between temperament and communication has scarcely been explored. This research presents two studies investigating the relationships between temperament, communication and peer popularity, using Howe and McWilliam's (in press) coding scheme. A cross-sectional study obtained parental ratings on temperament and peer nominated sociometric status for children in nursery class, Primary 3 and Primary 6. Children were observed during free play and structured tasks, and communication was coded. A follow up longitudinal study was conducted with children in Primary 2 and Primary 3 only. It was hypothesised that difficult temperament would be associated with peer rejection, that communication would vary with children's temperament and popularity and that both temperament and communication would vary across gender. Variations in temperament and communication across age were expected in the cross-sectional, but not in the longitudinal study. Results showed that difficult temperamental traits, especially impulsivity, were associated with peer rejection, while simple communication was predictive of peer rejection in some cases. Moreover, impulsivity was consistently associated with simple communication. Age differences in temperament were evident across the six year period of the cross-sectional study, but not the two year period of the longitudinal study, while age differences in communication were sparse. No significant gender differences were obtained, gender group composition rather than gender itself being associated with differential use of communication.