Why can’t I join? Peer rejection in early childhood education and the role of oral communicative competence

Contemporary Educational Psychology | Femke van der Wilt, Chiel van der Veen, Claudia van Kruistum, Bert van Oers

The present study investigated the relation between oral communicative competence and peer rejection in early childhood education, as well as gender differences in this relation. Participants were N = 447 children aged 4–6 years. Children’s level of oral communicative competence was measured using the Nijmegen Test for Pragmatics and a sociometric method with peer nominations was used to assess their level of peer rejection. Regression analyses revealed that, after controlling for gender, age, and SES, oral communicative competence accounted for unique variance in peer rejection and was negatively related to the extent to which children were rejected by peers: children with poorer oral communicative competence experienced higher levels of peer rejection. No gender differences in this relation were found. Future research demonstrating the causal effect of oral communicative competence on peer rejection can provide early childhood education teachers who try to prevent or reduce peer rejection a strong argument to focus on the promotion of children’s oral communicative competence.