“Birds of a Feather…”: Behavioral Concordances and Preferential Personal Attraction in Children


  • The study reported herein was supported by a grant from NICHD (grant no. HD 27806). We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Patricia Taylor, Donna Dwyer-O'Connor, Marilyn Dryden, Sheila Meagher, Shannon Gird, Susan Coates, and Sybil Evans (University of Washington) and Kerri Hogg, Loretta Lapa, James Cash, and Xinyin Chen (University of Waterloo) for their help in data collection, coding, and analysis. We thank the mothers and children who made this project possible.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Kenneth H. Rubin, Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1.


The purpose of this study was to assess the extent to which preferential personal attraction was associated with behavioral similarity among newly acquinted children. Participants included 69 focal children, selected from a sample of 236 7-year-old children who met, for the first time, in same-sex quartets (n= 59) for a free-play session. Within each of these quartets, a “discriminating child” was identified; this child expressed a clear preference for one of his or her playmates over one other of her or his quartet playmates. Preference was determined sociometrically after the children became acquainted during free play. The results indicated that “discriminating” children were more behaviorally similar to preferred playmates than to nonpreferred playmates both in terms of cognitive play style and social participation. Implications of the findings are discussed in terms of the relation to the acquaintanceship process.