Paper in Child: Care, Health and Development
  • Gomes, L. & Livesey, D. (2008) Exploring the link between impulsivity and peer relations in 5- and 6-year-old children. Child: Care, Health and Development, 34, 6, 763-770.

    In recent years there has been an increased interest in the behavioural correlates of poor peer relations in childhood. It is now apparent that early poor peer relations are associated with negative future outcomes. The present study investigated whether behaviours that reflect impulsivity or require response inhibition are uniquely linked to children's peer relations.

    Five- and 6-year-old children's impulsivity was assessed using the teacher-rated impulsivity scale (TRIS), while the stop signal task and a modified version of Manly et al.'s opposite worlds task were employed as measures of response inhibition. In addition, peer relations measures were obtained for each child by asking their peers to indicate on a peer rating scale how much they would like to play with them.

    It was found that children's scores on the TRIS correlated significantly with peer relations measures (sociometric preference, peer acceptance and peer rejection) after controlling for gender, age and intelligence. Children rated by their teachers to be more impulsive had poorer peer relations.While there was a significant correlation between TRIS and stop-signal task performance, little relationship was found between either of the response inhibition measures and children's peer relations.

    The findings indicate that impulsivity is associated with children's poor relations with their peers and that this association is dependent upon the measure of impulsivity used. Whereas the more subjective teacher-ratings of impulsiveness did correlate with peer relations, the more objective behavioural measures of response inhibition, (thought to directly measure impulsivity), did not. The difference between these measures needs further investigation. While the data are correlational and causal direction can only be speculated, a practical implication of the finding of an association between impulsivity and peer acceptance is that adoption of strategies to minimize impulsive behaviour may improve the poor peer relations of children.