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Going to School

Social Groups & Cliques

Our experts have analyzed the social groups that form at school to help us understand how each child functions as a social person in the school environment. “Everyone who has ever gone to school is aware that there is a social status hierarchy in school. It is very painful to think that our own children are being ranked in some way by the group, but it happens. However, these groupings should not be used as measurements for comparing or changing kids to make them more popular,” advises Michael Thompson, Ph.D.
The following groupings are based on research organized by Michael Thompson Ph.D. and Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D, and originally reported in “Children’s Peer Relations: A Meta-Analytic Review of Popular, Rejected, Neglected, Controversial and Average Sociometric Status.”

Very Popular Kids
Popular kids are generally “alpha males” and “queen bees” who may be more athletic, talkative, attractive or simply controlling than other members of a group. These kids generally have social skills that draw others to them to have fun, and are considered leaders of a group. As kids get older, sexual activity can also become a factor in a kid’s popularity or coolness factor.

Accepted Kids
The majority of kids fall into this group. They are not “leaders,” but they are considered popular. Accepted kids are generally smart and outgoing and not likely to be overly aggressive or disruptive in school.

Average or Ambiguous Kids
These kids are not ranked by their peers as very popular or unpopular but certainly have friends.

Neglected Kids
A small number of kids are truly neglected by their peers. These kids tend to be quiet, good students, but not active socially at all. Teachers often don’t worry about them, because they do well in school. While it takes a long time for these kids to make friends, research shows that they generally do have friends by middle school, but they need attention from parents and teachers.

Controversial Kids
Both liked and disliked, these kids are often the class clowns; likable kids with embarrassing habits (like excessive nose-picking), bullies who instill both fear and loyalty, and rebels who stand up to teachers and talk back.

Rejected Kids
At the highest social risk are “rejected kids.” There are two types: rejected-submissive kids who become sad and withdrawn to avoid attracting attention and rejected-aggressive kids who can become emotionally explosive if teased excessively. “These kids are not necessarily violent kids, but they are the kids who frequently lose control in school, act up excessively, and wind up in the principal’s office,” says Michael Thompson, Ph.D.

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