First Advisor

Roger Jennings

Term of Graduation

Fall 1997

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology






Peer pressure in children, Achievement motivation in children, Interpersonal relations in children, Motivation in education



Physical Description

1 online resource (101 pages)


With regard to school motivation and performance, two questions have been central for both educational and developmental psychologists; Why do some students do well in school whereas others do not and why is it that over time, those students who do well, continue to do well, while those who don't, often get worse? Findings with regard to the first question are conclusive; many factors are associated with doing well in school. With regard to the second question however, the findings are less conclusive.

Parents, teachers and peers have been regarded as contexts in which socialization occurs. However, much of the research has focused on parents and teachers and little (research) attention has been given to peer influence. With regard to peer contexts, the magnitude of socialization and specific mechanisms of influence have yet to be specified. Although researchers often claim that peer socialization has occurred, claims have been made with correlational evidence of change across time. Hence, third variable explanations are possible. Additionally, there has been little (direct) examination of specific mechanisms of influence.

The goal of this study was to (directly) examine one specific mechanism of influence called social affirmation. Sequential observations were conducted in a fifth grade classroom (N=25) in order to identify the contingency patterns from classmates and the teacher, that children experienced as consequences for their on-and off-task behavior. Twenty-two students participated in individual interviews on peer networks and filled out a questionnaire on school motivation. The teacher filled out a parallel questionnaire regarding each students' motivational level. Lastly, classroom interactions were observed across 10 days by observers blind to the classroom's peer context structures and the students' school motivation. Analyses examined the contingencies with which peer network members, non-network members, and the teacher responded to target students' on-and off-task behaviors. Results showed differences between the social partners' contingency patterns, and relations between students' own school motivation and the contingencies that they experienced from peer group members and non-members. These contingency patterns constitute learning conditions that can be viewed as a mechanism through which a child's peer group members can have an influence on that child's school motivation.


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