Modifications in Children's Goals When Encountering Obstacles to Conflict Resolution


  • We would like to thank Carolyn Anderson, Andrea Hopmeyer, Gary Ladd, Jennifer Parkhurst, Amanda Rose, and Jill Saxon for their helpful comments and assistance. We are also grateful to the undergraduate assistants, teachers, and students who contributed their time and energy to this research project. Participants came from the following six Illinois communities: Arcola, Arthur, Clinton, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, Paxton-Buckley-Loda, and Rantoul. This work was supported by a Masters Thesis Completion Grant awarded by the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to the first author.

concerning this article should be addressed to Wendy Troop-Gordon, North Dakota State University, Department of Psychology, 115B Minard, Fargo, ND 58105. Electronic mail may be sent to


Previous studies have demonstrated that children's goals are associated with their success in peer relationships. The current study extends earlier findings by examining changes in children's goals during hypothetical conflicts. Participants were 252 children ages 9 to 12 years old (133 boys, 119 girls). As predicted, children's goals changed significantly when they encountered obstacles to conflict resolution, and these changes were predictive of their subsequent strategy choices. Both aggressive- and submissive-rejected children were more likely to evidence antisocial changes in their goals, including an increased desire to retaliate. They also showed reluctance to forego instrumental objectives. Other findings highlighted the need to investigate the combinations of goals children pursue as predictors of their strategies and the quality of their peer relationships.