Effects of stigmatizing information on children's peer relations: Believing is seeing


A series of studies is reviewed indicating that negative labels, such as learning disabled or behavior disordered, can lead to peer stigmatization and subsequently, to disturbed or disrupted peer relations for the labeled child Research on expectancy effects in children can be applied to these problems, demonstrating that they may be due not only to the labeled child's actual behavior but also to biased perceptions and behavior of peers as a result of that label Both self-report and observational data indicate that peers like labeled children less and behave in a consistently more negative manner toward them than they do toward nonlabeled children Specifically, they act less friendly toward the labeled peer and are less involved in the dyadic interaction. The labeled child perceives this dislike and reacts in a manner that maintains and exacerbates this negative sequence. In addition, peers appear to maintain their negative impressions even in cases where targets provide disconfirming evidence. Thus, strategies for intervention may provide benefit by addressing not only the labeled children's behavior but also their peers' perceptions.

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