Friendlessness and theory of mind: a prospective longitudinal study

Fink, Elian, Begeer, Sander, Peterson, Candida C., Slaughter, Virginia and de Rosnay, Marc (2014) Friendlessness and theory of mind: a prospective longitudinal study. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 33 1: 1-17. doi:10.1111/bjdp.12060

Author Fink, Elian
Begeer, Sander
Peterson, Candida C.
Slaughter, Virginia
de Rosnay, Marc
Title Friendlessness and theory of mind: a prospective longitudinal study
Journal name British Journal of Developmental Psychology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0261-510X
Publication date 2014-09-02
Year available 2014
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/bjdp.12060
Open Access Status
Volume 33
Issue 1
Start page 1
End page 17
Total pages 17
Place of publication Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom
Publisher John Wiley & Sons
Collection year 2015
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Chronic friendlessness in childhood predicts adverse mental health outcomes throughout life, yet its earliest roots are poorly understood. In theory, developing a theory of mind (ToM) should help children gain mutual friends and one preschool study (Peterson and Siegal, 2002. Br J Dev Psychol, 20, 205) suggested a cross-sectional connection. We therefore used a 2-year prospective longitudinal design to explore ToM as a predictor of mutual friendship in 114 children from age 5 to 7 years after controlling potential confounds including language ability and group popularity. Confirming friendship's distinctiveness from group sociometric status, numerous group-rejected children (53%) had a mutual friend whereas 23% of those highest in group status did not. Five-year-olds with a mutual friend significantly outperformed their friendless peers on a comprehensive ToM battery (basic and advanced false belief). Longitudinally, chronically friendless 7-year-olds (no friends at either testing time) stood out for their exceptionally poor Time 1 ToM understanding even after controlling for group popularity, age, and language skill. Extending previous evidence of ToM's predictive links with later social and cognitive outcomes, these results for mutual friendship suggest possible interventions to help reduce the lifelong mental health costs of chronic friendlessness.
Keyword Friendship
False belief understanding
Sociometric peer popularity
Theory of mind
Early childhood
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Published online ahead of print 2 September 2014.

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2015 Collection
School of Psychology Publications
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