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Associations between behavioral/emotional difficulties in kindergarten children and the quality of their peer relationships.

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Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development, University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.



The aim of this study was to investigate the associations between children's difficulties (conduct problems, hyperactivity/impulsivity, and emotional symptoms) and peer victimization and rejection in kindergarten. For the assessment of children's difficulties, the authors used a multi-informant approach.


A total of 153 five-year-old children were interviewed (Berkeley Puppet Interview). Teachers and parents completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Teachers reported on peer victimization. Peer nominations (rejection and acceptance) were conducted in a subgroup of 92 children. Combining teacher, parent, and self-reports of children's difficulties, three components were established: trait (degree of problems), informant differences resulting from perspective (self versus others), and context (kindergarten versus home).


Children's difficulties were significantly associated with teacher- and self-reported victimization and peer rejection (r = 0.20-0.35), but not with peer acceptance. Conduct problems and emotional symptoms, but not hyperactivity/impulsivity, contributed independently to the variance of peer victimization and rejection. Perspective differences between children and adults according to hyperactivity/impulsivity also predicted peer rejection.


Behavioral and emotional difficulties as well as a lack of self-awareness regarding hyperactive/impulsive behavior may place children at risk of peer victimization and rejection. Child psychiatric assessments and therapeutic strategies should thus take children's self-perception of symptoms and their peer relationships into account.

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