Situation-Specificity of Children’s Social Goals: Changing Goals According to Changing Situations?

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agency, communality, individual differences, multilevel modeling, situation-specificity, social goals, agency

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Children's agentic and communal goals were examined in hypothetical conflict, group entry, victimization, and positive situations (N = 310, 11—13 years). Multilevel modeling was used to separate the variation in goals to the between- and within- (i.e., situation-specific) individual levels. About half of the variation in goals was due to individual differences. Boys endorsed more agentic goals than girls. A positive perception of self was associated with more agentic goals, whereas a positive perception of peers was associated with high degrees of communal goals. In addition, agentic goals were associated with rejection, whereas communal goals were related to peer acceptance. Children aimed for closeness with peers most often when no stressful interaction pattern was imposed (positive situation), endorsing fewer affiliation aims when involved in a conflict, and having the least of these aims when victimized by peers. Agentic goals, in turn, were most common in the victimization situation, the next typical in conflict and positive situations, and least likely in the group entry situation. Finally, the way children adjusted their goals in response to the victimization situation varied between children, and was related to sociometric status in older children.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

International Journal of Behavioral Development, v. 31, issue 3, p. 232-241.