Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Greg Simpson

Second Advisor

Dr. Cordelia Robinson

Third Advisor

Dr. Kenneth Smith


Physical attractiveness, play behavior, and the outcomes of peer interaction, as they relate to sociometric status, were the focus of this study. Children ages 4 and 5 years, who were enrolled in a summer preschool program, were the subjects of the study. Each child was observed for 10 minutes each week over a period of 10 weeks by two independent observers who coded 16 behavioral codes, 6 verbal codes, and responses of interacting peers. A sociometric procedure was used to assign children to popular, average, neglected, and rejected peer status groups. Data analysis revealed status, age, and sex differences in play behavior. Rejected status children spent more of their play-time in solitary constructive activities, frequently functioned as "on-lookers" in play activities, and were more verbally aggressive during observation periods when compared with all other status groups. Rejected status children were more physically aggressive when compared with popular status children. Neglected status children also spent more of their time in solitary constructive activities and were frequently off-task, functioned as on-lookers in play activities, and engaged in a very low rate of constructive interactive group play. Boys chose constructive activities, while girls engaged in more fantasy play. The 5-year-old children were found to involve themselves more frequently in competitive and physical play activities when compared to 4-year-old children. Peer interaction measures indicated differences in peer responses according to status and sex. Rejected status children received a higher proportion of negative responses from their peers. Both rejected and neglected status children engaged in more play-time with opposite sex peers. Both males and females interacted more frequently and positively with same sexed peers. These findings suggest behavioral differences among preschoolers which vary as a function of sex, age, and status attainment. Furthermore, children respond differently to their peers' behavior depending upon the sex and status of the interacting child. The importance of these behavioral differences and peer responses to the behaviors are discussed in terms of identification of "at risk" children and development of appropriate intervention strategies.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Psychology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts. Copyright 1990 Kathleen M. Bird