Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Adolescents' Perceptions of Rejection Status and Potentially Rejecting Situations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Marie S. Tisak, PhD

Second Advisor

Helen J. Michaels, PhD (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Kenneth M. Shemberg, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

John Tisak, PhD (Committee Member)


The peer rejection literature’s focus on sociometric measurement has neglected the potential relevance of how adolescents interpret rejection information. Part 1 of this study explored peer rejection from the viewpoint of 315 adolescents (M age = 17.14, SD = .70) in terms of 1) how often they perceived they were the recipients and initiators of rejection, and 2) the behaviors that communicated rejection. Rejecting and accepting behaviors were compared to not nice and nice behaviors to obtain a better understanding of the nature of peer rejection from the perspective of adolescents. Categories accounting for the rejecting behaviors listed were Physical Aggression, Verbal Aggression, Social Aggression, Negative Impression, and Social Hierarchy, with socially aggressive behaviors being listed most frequently. There was both similarity and distinction in the behaviors that were listed as rejecting versus not nice. Additionally, rejecting and not nice behaviors were consistently reported as occurring less frequently than accepting and nice behaviors. A series of 2 (gender of participant: male or female) X 2 (recipient: participant or peer) X 2 (recipient gender: boy or girl) mixed ANOVAs were conducted; dependent variables included rates of rejection (and acceptance, not nice, and nice behaviors) and whether each behavioral category was mentioned. Main effects and interactions including gender, recipient, and recipient gender are discussed.

Part 2 explored individual and contextual differences in the processing of rejection information. Specifically, participants were given one of three scenarios that involved an intentional, unintentional, or ambiguous exclusion. They responded to items about how the characters would be impacted emotionally. A series of 3 (scenario type: ambiguous, intentional, unintentional) X 2 (gender: male or female) X 3 (rejected status: never rejected, sometimes rejected, often rejected) ANOVAS were conducted. Adolescents perceived greater emotional impact when the exclusion appeared intentional. Contrary to expectations, often rejected participants did not differ on perceived emotional impact from less frequently rejected participants in the ambiguous condition. There was evidence that adolescents who felt more frequently rejected expected that the recipient would be sadder when the exclusion appeared intentional. Additional findings, limitations, directions for future research, and clinical implications are discussed.