Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Social Rejection

I noticed this health news item on Fox News, but it can be found elsewhere. The Rush NeuroBehavioral Center has done research that indicates that kids that struggle with making friends and other aspects of social relationships at the school age are at higher risk for problems later in life. A quote: “Children’s ability to develop positive peer relationships is critical to their well-being,” said Dr. Clark McKown, study principal investigator and associate executive director and research director at the Rush NeuroBehavioral Center. “Compared to children who are accepted by their peers, socially rejected children are at substantially elevated risk for later adjustment troubles.” Here's more: The studies indicate that some children have difficulty picking up on non-verbal or social cues.

According to McKown, “They simply don’t notice the way someone’s shoulders slump with disappointment, or hear the change in someone’s voice when they are excited, or take in whether a person’s face shows anger or sadness.” A second major factor is that some children may pick up on non-verbal or social cues, but lack the ability to attach meaning to them. The third factor is the ability to reason about social problems. “Some children may notice social cues and understand what is happening, but are unable to do the social problem solving to behave appropriately,” said McKown. And finally: “The number of children who cannot negotiate all these steps, and who are at risk of social rejection, is startling,” said McKown. Nearly 13 percent of the school age population, or roughly four million children nationwide, have social-emotional learning difficulties.

Well, count me among the 13%. I spent my elementary school years either being ignored, or being picked on. I could never figure out what was going on; I was wildly reactive to everything, and got nailed for that too. I am still something of a social misfit. I struggle with first time meetings, making deeper friendships, how to take things and group dynamics even now. I have learned a lot through sorry experience, but I would still count myself among those with "adjustment troubles." One wonders why the troubles continue; is it needing some different training and thinking, and something along the line of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy would work? Or does the early trauma and struggle leave actual physical pathways in the neurons of the brain, making it always a little harder to make the observations and judgements required to be competent in social situations?

I like the part in the news articles about what parents should do: not be embarrassed, panic, be angry or offer stupid ass suggestions like "Just let it roll off your back." (It still irks me, this response from my folks.)--parents can actually do some teaching to help their kids. And if you are a parent, and your kid is struggling--no friends, being picked on and bullied--don't just sit there, help your kid out. Seek professional help if you have to. You'll save your child a lot of work and angst later on. Trust me.


Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
Like you, I get the social cues but the friend thing was always a bit off. Sometimes I wonder if they ever cross-correlate this data with other stuff.

However, we're similar. The one I heard was the 'sticks and stones may break your bones' saying, worthless advice when you are twelve.

Thanks for this. I am behind on comments b/c a. I have the flu and b. these posts you have running are too thoughtful for the quick comment. i'll be back!

Ann T.

the observer said...

Ann T

I pray you are feeling better soon!

Thanks for reading and commenting. I found the research interesting, and worth pursuing further. As I mentioned in the post, do social difficulties in the elementary years leave biological marks on the brain? After all, the brain is still being formed. Food for thought.

The Observer

P.S. Stay out of the snow drifts.