Study Finds Ostracism Hinders Children’s Self-Esteem

Being ostracized, or separated and rejected socially, is an experience with which nearly everyone is confronted at some point in their life, and recently, a group of researchers from the University of Kent decided to investigate whether that life-point itself is important in predicting a negative reaction. The researchers worked with three groups of participants; one was aged eight and nine years old, another group included thirteen and fourteen year olds, and a third was populated by twenty year olds. Together with the adolescent and adult groups, the children were given a computer game to play involving the passing of a ball. In various experiments, the participants were either included in the game by the other participants, or were eventually left out, an experience designed to simulate ostracism.

The study found that the experience of ostracism had a negative impact on the basic emotional needs of all three of the participating groups; this data was gathered through the administering of surveys asking participants about their self-esteem, feeling of belonging, meaning, and control. The children, however, showed a heightened sensitivity to the experience, being more deeply affected by ostracism. While the researchers noted that this data could show how important a role ostracism can play within a child’s life, they also pointed out that the children were able to restore their basic emotional needs when involved in a subsequent game in which they were included. This suggests that identifying and exploring ostracism when it happens during childhood can have profoundly positive effects for emotional well-being. Through conducting further study into the social interactions and reactions of youth, researchers may be able to enhance the quality of life of many young people.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Mark T. Ward

    Mark T. Ward

    March 23rd, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    Being left out of a social or any other group can be very bad for any person but then if such children or adolescents are found they should be encouraged by others to be a part of a group or team and take active part in some kind of an activity to boost the person’s morale.

  • MX

    MX

    March 23rd, 2010 at 9:47 PM

    Being left out of a gathering or a group would make a person feel like he is not fit enough or good enough to belong to that group or be a part of it and this will surely be against his self-esteem.If a person has to be excluded from a group or an activity,he should be informed about it in the right way and not blatantly asked to go away or something like that!

  • PETE MICHEL

    PETE MICHEL

    March 24th, 2010 at 2:05 AM

    Children need to be taught that if they want to be included in a game or team they need to perform well…if they do,they will surely be included…in other cases where the exclusion of a particular child has been made not on the basis of merit should also be explained by the parent so as to teach the kid about how the world works!

  • Suzanne

    Suzanne

    March 24th, 2010 at 4:51 AM

    Really? Someone needed to do a study on this to prove the validity? Come on- we all know that being left out and ostracized as a child can have serious negative implications on us. I don’t need an organized study to tell me that. All I have to do is to walk into any school classroom or playground and see the real life implications of those situations.

  • Vanessa

    Vanessa

    July 16th, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    Listen, this is nothing compared to real OSTRACISM. Okay, you dont get included in a game.Youve just expierenced ostracism.But its nothing compared to a parent exluding a child.Take me for example, my mother threw me out of the house for the reason being : I looked, acted, and thought like my father.I’ve expierence rejection, depression, ostracism, and nearly suicide.This study is nothing.

  • Elizabeth A Curtain

    Elizabeth A Curtain

    August 12th, 2010 at 8:36 PM

    Please check out the work of Kipling D Williams and Lisa Zadro (Purdue Uni USA and Sydney Uni Australia)on the topics of Ostracism, Exclusion and The Social Outcaste. They(and other researchers)have done studies of many of these areas of pyschology. Basically they explain that people (the source) who employ these emotional bullying techniques/strategies/tactics do so in order to gain power or more power over others (a target/s)this in turn boosts their own sense of self worth and esteem, having others become more compliant and more easily manipulated (making their own job easier) and increasing their sense of control/personal competency/status. Because more often than not they are Alpha type control freaks with a lot of personal and behavioural issues that they are not prepared to deal with or seek help for or acknowledge-unfortunately.
    They often leave a trail of broken relationshops in their wake. It’s no way to live a life.

  • Elizabeth A Curtain

    Elizabeth A Curtain

    August 12th, 2010 at 9:05 PM

    PS This type of emotional bullying behaviour (ostracism/social exclusion etc) starts in childhood and continues on into adulthood for many of these individuals. Those who have experienced it in younger years (effectively/successfully? practised on them) often turn round in adulthood and do it to others and those who have been “victims” continue to be victimized in adulthood-almost as if it is an expectation. I have at times tried to “dish it out to others” and “they to me”. We need to recognise that it is a “negative” behavioural strategy that aims to empower/disempower people and that a truly harmonious society believes in inclusion, compassion, caring and “real” tolerance,acceptance,understanding,appreciation of “normal” differences and the intrinsic worth of individuals.

  • Izzy Phartin

    Izzy Phartin

    November 10th, 2010 at 2:46 PM

    Lets see beaten, humiliated, whipped, disfigured, rejected
    By my insane Mother. Neighborhood bully had all the other kids hate me, my brother supported him. New kid in school, completly shunned humiliated A lost child constantly sabatoging myself, filled with such hatred, Anti authority rebelliousness, fired at least 20 times, Yet I became a Pilot, Business owner, millionaire, married for 26 years, father of two boys.
    If I can do it so can YOU

  • Elizabeth A Curtain

    Elizabeth A Curtain

    October 10th, 2012 at 6:17 AM

    I still maintain that social ostracism is basically a power game…the one seeking power versus the victim… who is to be ignored… into submission and defeat…both mentally and physically. That’s the aim of the game. Hard not to get caught up in it i.e. social ostracism… when you find yourself in this situation. Even harder to keep that higher perspective that says…others can see or observe the bully’s or perpetrators actions i.e what they are up to… and whilst many of them are powerless to act, fearing the same threatment themselves i.e. social rejection, they are steadily gaining the idea that the bully is someone not to be trusted or for that matter… respected. Often the bully is operating from the standpoint of a hidden agenda…eg.controlling their relatives or friends, keeping their job, gaining higher status within their work environment or social group etc. The practice of social ostracism in real life has a far greater complexity to it than this simple game would have us believe…but the fundimental principles, effects or ramifications are the same. Like to now see the antidote for this sort of behaviour…need a study to show how self esteem building activities and positivity can rebuild lives and send individuals self esteem and sense of self worth on an upward trajectory.

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