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J Abnorm Child Psychol. 1988 Jun;16(3):247-61.

Popular and unpopular children's interactions during cooperative and competitive peer group activities.

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Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan 48202.


Popular and unpopular fourth-grade boys were videotaped as each attempted to gain entry into a cooperative and a competitive task involving two classmates who were average in popularity. During the competitive procedure, the unpopular entry children were more likely than their popular counterparts to break rules, emit silly noises, and appeal to authority. Children average in popularity directed more positive behaviors toward their well-liked classmates and more derisive and dominating behavior toward unpopular peers. Unpopular children exhibited less negative and immature behavior in the benign, tension-free atmosphere of the cooperative project and their peers were more tolerant toward them than during the competitive game. The findings suggest that contextual factors influence the social skills exhibited by the unpopular child. Implications for the treatment of peer relationship problems are discussed.

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