Why won't you play with me? Peer rejection in early childhood education and the role of language abilities

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The aim was to test a mediation model connecting receptive vocabulary knowledge to peer rejection, through oral communicative competence. Previous studies showed associations between receptive vocabulary knowledge and oral communicative competence (e.g., Bornstein, Haynes, & Painter, 1998), oral communicative competence and peer rejection (e.g., Hazen & Black, 1989), and receptive vocabulary knowledge and peer rejection (e.g., Menting, Van Lier, & Koot, 2011). Whether receptive vocabulary knowledge is also indirectly related to peer rejection, through oral communicative competence, remained unknown. Generally, a lack of word knowledge creates misunderstanding in interpersonal communication and makes it more difficult to convey and interpret messages (Astington & Jenkins, 1999). Difficulties in peer communication are likely to increase a child’s risk of being rejected (Hay et al., 2004). The present study adopted a positivistic paradigm and a correlational design. N = 135 preschool children participated. Receptive vocabulary knowledge was assessed with the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, oral communicative competence was assessed with the Nijmegen Test for Pragmatics, and peer rejection was assessed using peer nominations. Teachers were informed extensively, parents were asked for passive consent, children’s participation was entirely voluntary, data were sampled carefully and anonymously saved, information obtained from children was treated confidential. Outcomes of conditional process analyses revealed that poor receptive vocabulary knowledge was associated with poor oral communicative competence, which was in turn related to a higher level of peer rejection. Findings indicate the need to focus on oral communicative competence and receptive vocabulary knowledge when addressing peer rejection in early childhood education.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018
EventEECERA 2018 - Budapest, Hungary
Duration: 22 Aug 201825 Aug 2018


ConferenceEECERA 2018


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