“The ‘Unpopular’ Children Don’t Flow and Destroy the Atmosphere”: Social Flow in Latency Prevents Peer Exclusion

Hannah Fisher-Grafy 1 * , Rinat Halabi 1

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp. 64-78

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Peer exclusion is an undesirable phenomenon with serious implications for the present and future of children experiencing it. Growing peer exclusion and bullying rates in elementary-school-age children, especially on social networks, have been examined from a mostly pathological perspective focused on the rejected child or rejecting group. This qualitative study sought developmental explanations for this phenomenon’s pervasiveness during latency. Twelve focus groups of 140 Israeli children in Grade 5 discussed peer exclusion and other social issues. The data were categorized according to the revised Van Kaam method improved by Moustakas. Three themes from aspects of group flow emerged: reduction in the egocentric position and rise in the group’s importance, flexibility with changing social norms, and ostracism when the children perceive a block in the “flow.” The findings confirmed that at latency age, the importance of social flow increases, and rejection and even bullying play a normative developmental role. This study adds an alternative to the literature explaining peer exclusion as the result of the rejected child’s personality or the group’s destructive dynamic. It suggests viewing peer exclusion as a normative development during latency, helping children develop a “social self” free from their egocentric positions to function with a group.

Keywords: normative development, elementary school, latency period, flexibility, social norm.