The Coordination of Conflicting Social Goals: Differences between Rejected and Nonrejected Boys


  • This research was supported by a Research Council grant from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to the first author. We would like to thank Donald Klumb, Lisa Henry, Alex Leguizamo, Barbara Racey, Karen Tordoff, and Lori Thompson for their help in completing this research. We are also indebted to the Greensboro Public Schools for their cooperation. Finally, we would like to thank Susan Keane, Steve Asher, John Coie, and the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. Portions of this paper were presented at the 1991 meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development.

Reprint requests should be sent to: David Rabiner, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27412. functioning between rejected subgroups, and the way in which children's social goals are related to their peer status. In subsequent work, we hope to continue examining these interesting and important issues.


In this study involving 58 fourth- and fifth-grade boys ranging in age from 9 to 12 years old, we examined whether aggressive, submissive, and “residual” rejected boys (i.e., rejected boys who are neither highly aggressive nor highly submissive) are less able than nonrejected boys to coordinate individual and relational goals in their social interaction strategies. Participants were read a series of short vignettes describing children in potentially conflictual interactions, and their ideas about handling these situations were coded according to the degree to which individual and relational goals were integrated. As predicted, aggressive rejected boys and “residual” rejected boys provided less integrated responses than nonrejected boys, and this was true regardless of whether automatic or reflective social reasoning processes were evoked. In contrast to our prediction, however, submissive rejected boys displayed no comparable goal coordination deficit. The implications of these findings for children's social competence are discussed.