Besides positive and negative nominations for friendships, some researchers ask for nominations for a variety of different behavioral characteristics or attributes. One such instrument, The Recognition Scale, has been used by Sherman and Burgess (1985). This scale is similar to a "Guess Who" nomination technique in which children nominate classmates who fit descriptions of behaviors. It was constructed by combining descriptions from The Ohio Recognition Scale (Fordyce, Yauch and Raths, 1946) and from similar research instruments by Johnson (1950), Johnson and Kirk (1950), and Baldwin (1958). This scale includes a list of students in a classroom (similar to the Social Distance Scale described next) which has a list of 20 behavioral attributes which describe student behaviors. Teachers read a paragraph describing a particular behavioral attribute that corresponds to the name on the children's response form. Students are instructed to check up to three different students who might fit the particular description which the teacher has read to them. They are told that they do not have to choose anyone for a given trait if they feel that it does not fit anyone in their room. Students' profiles are obtained by adding the total number of nominations they each receive on each attribute.

Many of the traits in the Recognition Scale describe basic social competencies that have been shown to be strongly related to children's acceptance/rejection and general social status within the classroom. In a recent article by Sherman and Burgess (1985) a strong relationship was shown between several clusters of these traits and children's Classroom Social Distance Scores (see Table 1). Coie, Dodge and Coppotelli (1982) also presented evidence demonstrating similarly strong relationships between several basic social skill traits and both positive and negative nomination data (see Table 2). This technique can be quite helpful in identifying the reasons why particular children maintain their classroom social status. Intervention using a variety of social skills training procedures can be helpful in changing the classroom climate. Work with individual children may sometimes be required. Work with the entire group is also sometimes advisable (see Vacha, et. Al., 1979, for an entire two year curriculum focusing on enhancing 4th to 6th grade children's classroom climates.


Sometimes teachers in the lower elementary grades (pre-school and kindergarten through the second grade) find that their children cannot read a list of names. One solution is to take photographic portraits of the children, either using the annual year book pictures or sometimes taking fast developing polaroid photographs. Then, the children are verbally asked the traditional positive and negative nomination questions with the added instruction that they select the three photographs of children they like the most or least. This technique requires an individual administration to each child, along with a little more direct recording of the children's responses by the teacher. From here on, though, all the rest of the procedures are the same. Shelly Hymel's (1983) article dealing with sociometric measurement in the preschool environment is a good reference for those interested in this area. Hymel (1983) also discusses another technique called the "paired-comparison" measure. "Hear a child is presented, in turn, with all possible pairs of peers within the group under consideration, and for each pair is asked to state a preference for one or the other peers according to some specified interpersonal criteria (e.g., '"Which one would you most like to play with?')," (p. 24) One main disadvantage to this technique is the amount of time required for administration, especially with preschoolers!


Coi and Dodge (1983) have developed another way of determining children's social status within classrooms which is based on quantifiable measures obtained from positive and negative nomination data. Their formulas are useful when the most general nomination format states "What three children in this classroom do you 'like the most'" or "What three children in this room do you 'like the least'". Nominations may be treated as 'fixed nominations' (for instance fixed at a maximum of three nominations) or 'fixed-rank' measures (for instance giving a weight of 3 to first nominations, 2 to second nominations, 1 to third nominations and 0 for no nominations). Certain basic statistics such as the mean and standard deviation can be calculated for each general question: i.e., the mean and standard deviation for 'liked the most' as well as 'liked the least'. In order to use Coi and Dodge's (1983) formulas for determining social status you must first convert the children's raw frequency or weighted frequency scores to standardized z-scores. This is fairly simple to do after one has computed the means and standard deviations for each of the two general questions 'liked the most' (LM) and 'liked the least' (LL). The mean for each question is subtracted from each child's score on that question and this difference is divided by the standard deviation for that question:

Child's score - mean
--------------------------------- = z-score
standard deviation

zLM = the z-score for the 'liked most' question.

zLL = the z-score for the 'liked least' question

SOCIAL PREFERENCE (SP). After computing each child's zLM and zLL scores one can then go on to compute each child's Social Preference score which is as follows:

SP = zLM - zLL

The main idea behind this construct, Social Preference, is that the zLM score will obviously be a positive figure if zLM is greater than zLL, while if the zLM is less than zLL, the result will be a negative number. Negative numbers exist at one end of the continuum indicating very little preference, while positive scores indicate a strong preference. Scores in the middle, that is close to zero (0) indicate average social preference.

SOCIAL IMPACT (SI). Social Impact is the idea that whether or not children are liked by the group as a whole, or disliked by the group, the group is, nevertheless responsive to them. Therefore, both the zLM as well as the zLL scores are an important consideration. Thus the formula for Social Impact is as follows:

SI = zLM + zLL

Given these four computations [1) zLM, 2) zLL, 3) SP and 4) SI] one can then apply Boolian Logic to determine the five specific categories of social status:

One distinct advantage of standardizing children's scores - i.e., transforming their raw positive or negative nomination scores into "z-scores" - is that these z-scores make possible normative comparisons of individual in different environments. Obviously one factor effecting the children's raw scores is the size of the classroom group with which the child is being measured: eg., the difference in frequency of nominations in a large group may be substantially different than the frequency of nominations they receive in a different and "smaller" group. Sometimes teachers and wish to know the stability or similarity of a child's social status in different classrooms, or even over time (eg., do kids change or maintain their social status as they grow older?). The standardized z-scores provide an appropriate way of answering questions such as these because these standardized scores reflect normative standing in a group regardless of the constituency or size of the group.


Asher and Hymel (1981), Kane and Lawler (1978), as well as Miller and Gentry (1980) have discussed several different techniques for measuring peer attraction. An adaptation of a sociometric rating scale developed by the Horace Mann-Lincoln Institute of School Experimentation (Bureau of Publications, 1947) entitled the Classroom Social Distance Scale, is one such measure. The scale is modeled after Bogardus (1928) sociologically oriented strategy and allows each child within any particular classroom to give, as well as receive from every child in the classroom, a rating on a 1 to 5 continuum. The rating continuum is as follows:

An example of the rating form appears in FIGURE 18 (this would be Ann's responses as in our example classroom displayed throughout FIGURES 1 - 17), and a blank template for reproduction/duplication appears in APPENDIX E AND F. Students are given a survey-matrix (FIGURE 18) in which the columns consisted of an alpha/vertical list of the children in their room, and the rows are labeled in the left margin with the 5-point rating continuum. Children are asked to indicate the statement which most nearly defines their feelings about each person(X). To identify who is doing the rating, each child is asked to circle their name. They are asked to "...put an astrix, '*' in the row which describes how you think most people would rate you." This is sometimes called the Personal Social Distance Rating. Great discrepancies between the Personal Social Distance Rating and the mean Classroom Social Distance ratings may indicate that a child is "out-of-touch" with their "Social Reality". Each child's mean social distance score can be computed by multiplying the appropriate weight times the frequency with which a child was checked off in each of the categories, and dividing by the number of raters (the size of the classroom minus one - the child who is being rated). Theoretically, the mean social distance scores, a continuous measure, can range from 1 to 5 and relatively low scores (1) would indicate less social distance, while relatively high scores (5) would indicate greater social distance. This social distance measure can then be analyzed contingent upon various attributes of both the raters' and ratees', such as their gender and age. Sherman (1984a, 1984b, 1984c, 1985), for example, has shown the importance of considering gender and age as potential moderating variables influencing the ratings which children both give and receive.

child/ranking1 (ANN)2 (BUD)3 (DIANE)4 (DORIS)5 6 etc
(1)Would like to have him/her as one of my best friends...X...
(2) Would like to have him/her in my group but not as a close friend..XX....
(3) Would like to be with him/her once in awhile but not often or for long at a time.*.....X
(4)Don't mind him/her being in our room but I don't want to have anything to do with him/her.....XX.
(5)Wish he/she weren't in our room.......

The Classroom Social Distance Scale has many advantages over the positive or negative nomination technique discussed earlier. It's primary advantage is that every child within any given classroom contributes to the score each individual receives. When either the positive or negative nomination technique is used we see the "network" of friendships, but if no one nominates a child that is all we know about how others feel about him/her. A rating system is, then, much more precise AND INVOLVES THE ENTIRE CLASSROOM.


Another form of sociometric measure, somewhat similar to the sociometric "rating" strategy is called the "Sociometric Ranking." Here, once again, the children are given a list of names of their classroom peers. They are asked to "rank" the names from lowest to highest on the basis of some interpersonal criteria (eg., Rank the children from highest to lowest on the basis of who you would most prefer to play with, where a low ranking could indicate the lest preferred and a high ranking the most preferred.) The rankings which children receive from their peers are summed and divided by the number of children who did the rankings (the classroom size minus 1) to yield an "average rank score."


A sensitive teacher/researcher can also obtain a sense of children's popularity and social status simply by observing who interacts with who. This is done in free-play situations where the children have the freedom to interact with their peers: eg., at lunch time noting who sits with who; during recess noting who plays with whom. Sometimes the validity of social interaction is evaluated noting whether the interactions are positive approaches or negative ones. Cavallaro and Porter's (1980) research on preschool "at-risk" and normal children's peer preferences is an excellent example of naturalistic observational sociometric analysis (See Appendix G, Research Example No. 7). Observational analyses are sometimes used to confirm children's "paper-and-pencil" sociometric nominations and ratings.



This WWW site has been constructed by Lawrence W. Sherman. I wish to acknowledge the support of the Center for Human Development, Learning and Teaching AND the Department of Educational Psychology. Please send any comments and suggestions about this home page to Lawrence W. Sherman.

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