04 SES 12 A, Friendships, Friendship Quality and Friendship Stability Between Students with and Without Special Educational Needs
Recent sociometric research has consistently reported that students with SEN are less accepted and more rejected by their mainstream classmates, they tend to occupy a less favourable social position, they have fewer friendships and generally experience more social difficulties than their average-to-high-achieving peers (Avramidis et al. 2018; Schwab 2015.). Strikingly, such negative findings have been reported across different countries and, therefore, it is unlikely that cultural characteristics or national education systems account for these findings (Avramidis et al, 2017). The evidence seems to suggest that contact in the same classroom between students with and without SEN does not necessarily indicate that students with SEN socially participate. Moreover, the research literature shows that students with SEN have a much higher risk of not having (stable) friendships in their class than their peers without SEN (Frostad & Pijl, 2007). Friendships are important for well-being, including social development, prosocial behaviour and self-esteem. Lacking friendships has lasting and damaging consequences on students’ psychological and health development. Research further supports that friendships may reduce students’ risk for negative social-emotional outcomes (Peters, Riksen-Walraven, Cillessen, & Weerth, 2011). However, previous research has not carefully investigated to what extent students with SEN rather have friendships with peers with or without SEN, why they have fewer friends and how stable these friendships are. Therefore, we will investigate this topic within our symposium. Critically worth mentioning is that most of the existing research is cross-sectional research and that longitudinal studies focussing on the development of the social participation of students with SEN are lacking. Two out of the three studies in this symposium will especially focus on friendships and their development in a longitudinal perspective.
In the first presentation, the social skills of students with SEN and their relation to having friends is analysed. The sample consisted of 82 preservice teachers and psychosocial care workers who evaluated the friendship of one of their students. The results of this study from Luxemburg indicated that students with SEN are at a high risk regarding their social participation. Moreover, having fewer friends was strongly linked with students’ social behavior.
In the second study, 412 students (31 with SEN and their 381 typically achieving peers) from Greece were analysed regarding their friendships in class. In this study, the authors used sociometric nomination technique over a period of three academic years and additional questionnaires to assess the students’ social self-concept, their friendship quality and several socio-emotional skills (e.g. empathy or self-control). The results of this study indicate that students with SEN have fewer friends compared to their peers without SEN and this situation remains stable over the time. Further, the quality of the friendships seems to be highly important for the social socio-emotional development.
Complementary to this study, the third presentation focusses on differences in the quality of friendship when one or both students have SEN. The sample consists of 28 inclusive classes from Austria (N= 629 students without SEN, 92 students with SEN). Again, the sociometric nomination method was used to record friendships and a short scale was used to assess the quality of friendships. Next to the fact that this study again show that students with SEN have fewer (stable) friends than their classmates without SEN, the quality of friendships did not differ between these two groups.
Our discussant will summarize, compare and bring together the main results of all three studies and critically discuss their importance for research and practice. Overall, the symposium provides rich insights and allows for a more complete understanding of students’ peer relations in inclusive schooling.
Avramidis, E., Strogilos, V., Aroni, K., & Kantaraki, C. T. (2017). Using sociometric techniques to assess the social impacts of inclusion: Some methodological considerations. Educational Research Review, 20, 68-80. Avramidis, E., Avgeri, G., & Strogilos, V. (2018). Social participation and friendship quality of students with special educational needs in regular Greek primary schools. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 1-14. Frostad, P., & Pijl, S. J. (2007). Does being friendly help in making friends? The relation between the social position and social skills of pupils with special needs in mainstream education. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 22(1), 15-30. Peters, E., Riksen-Walraven, J. M., Cillessen, A. H. N., & Weerth, C. de. (2011). Peer rejection and HPA activity in middle childhood: Friendship makes a difference. Child Development, 82(6), 1906–1920. Schwab, S. (2015). Social dimensions of inclusion in education of 4th and 7th grade pupils in inclusive and regular classes: outcomes from Austria. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 43, 72-79.
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