“Only you can play with me!” Children's inclusive decision making, reasoning, and emotions based on peers’ gender and behavior problems

Joanna Peplak, Ju Hyun Song, Tyler Colasante, Tina Malti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined the development of children's decisions, reasoning, and emotions in contexts of peer inclusion/exclusion. We asked an ethnically diverse sample of 117 children aged 4 years (n = 59; 60% girls) and 8 years (n = 58; 49% girls) to choose between including hypothetical peers of the same or opposite gender and with or without attention deficit/hyperactivity problems and aggressive behavior. Children also provided justifications for, and emotions associated with, their inclusion decisions. Both 4- and 8-year-olds predominantly chose to include the in-group peer (i.e., the same-gender peer and peers without behavior problems), thereby demonstrating a normative in-group inclusive bias. Nevertheless, children included the out-group peer more in the gender context than in the behavior problem contexts. The majority of children reported group functioning-related, group identity-related, and stereotype-related reasoning after their in-group inclusion decisions, and they associated happy feelings with such decisions. Although most children attributed sadness to the excluded out-group peer, they attributed more anger to the excluded out-group peer in the aggression context compared with other contexts. We discuss the implications of our findings for current theorizing about children's social–cognitive and emotional development in contexts of peer inclusion and exclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-148
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Oct

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). The authors thank the children and caregivers who participated and thank the members of the Laboratory for Social–Emotional Development and Intervention at the University of Toronto who helped with data collection and data processing.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Inc.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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