Pre-adolescents’ Peer-relational Schemas and Social Goals across Relational Contexts


Christina Salmivalli, Department of Psychology, University of Turku, FI-20014, Turku, Finland. Email:


Current theorists stress the context-specificity of social behaviors and social cognitions. Although researchers have started to investigate the relationship as one context that might influence social cognitions, relatively little is known about the influence of relational context on the social goals endorsed by children and adolescents. The current study tested the hypothesis that pre-adolescents’ goals would vary between individuals as well as across relational contexts, and examined factors that might explain such variation. Participants (N = 102, 11–12 years) filled in questionnaires regarding their social goals and self- and peer-perceptions when around each same-sex classmate. Both goals and perceptions displayed significant variation between individuals, as well as between different relationship contexts. The goals pre-adolescents pursued in different relationships were partly explained by varying perceptions of self and of the relationship partner in each relational context, as well as by the affective nature of the relationship. After accounting for the relationship-specific variation, few associations were significant at the individual level. The results highlight the importance of studying contextual variance in social goals and social cognitions in general.