Popular, rejected, neglected, controversial or average: Do young children of different sociometric groups differ in their level of oral communicative competence?

Social Development | Femke van der Wilt, Chiel van der Veen, Claudia van Kruistum, Bert van Oers

Children’s sociometric status refers to their position within the peer group and plays a major role in their future social development. It is therefore important to investigate factors that are related to it. To date, little attention has been paid to the potential role of oral communicative competence. The present study investigated sociometric group differences in the level of oral communicative competence in a sample of N = 570 children in early childhood education. Sociometric status was measured using a nomination procedure. Based on peer nominations, children were categorized into five sociometric groups: (1) popular (generally well‐liked), (2) rejected (generally disliked), (3) neglected (low visibility and neither liked nor disliked), (4) controversial (high visibility and both liked and disliked), and (5) average (at or about the mean on both likability and visibility). Children’s level of oral communicative competence was assessed with the Nijmegen Test for Pragmatics. Results of multi‐level analyses revealed significant sociometric group differences: children who were rejected or neglected by their peers exhibited lower levels of oral communicative competence than average children. Based on these findings, teachers in early childhood education are encouraged to pay more explicit attention to the promotion of their pupils’ oral communicative competence.