Developmental Pathways from Child Maltreatment to Peer Rejection



Using a prospective longitudinal design, rejection by peers, aggressive behavior, and social withdrawal were examined among a representative community sample of 107 maltreated children and an equal number of nonmaltreated children. Results revealed that chronic maltreatment was associated with heightened risk of rejection by peers. Chronically maltreated children were more likely to be rejected by peers repeatedly across multiple years from childhood to early adolescence. Maltreatment chronicity was also associated with higher levels of children's aggressive behavior, as reported by peers, teachers, and children themselves. Aggressive behavior accounted in large part for the association between chronic maltreatment and rejection by peers. Socially withdrawn behavior was associated with peer rejection, but did not account for the association between chronic maltreatment and peer rejection. These results held for both girls and boys, followed from childhood through early adolescence. Moreover, the links among chronic maltreatment, aggressive behavior, and peer rejection were already established by early school age. Implications of these results for developmental theory and intervention are discussed.