A Person-Centered Analysis of Change in Children’s Peer Optimism and Its Relation to Peer Social Competence


Children’s peer optimism has been shown to be associated with a variety of positive social outcomes, but little is known about changes in peer optimism over time and if these changes relate to peer social competence. Based on a sample of 114 children (children in grades 3 and 4 reassessed in grades 4 and 5) (girls = 62; boys = 52), Growth Mixture Modeling identified two profiles of children based on reported peer optimism: a group with a relatively low level of optimism that remained low (n = 45; Low/Stable); and a group with high optimism that increased over time (n = 69; High/Increasing). Comparing the social competence of children in the two profiles, children in the High/Increasing group reported greater self-social competence; were more liked and more popular by peers; and engaged in less relational aggression and withdrawal. Children in the Low/Stable group increased in overt aggression, and girls reported greater loneliness. In sum, this person-centered research empirically identified two groups of children who differed in their peer optimism from one school year to the next (low and stayed low vs high and got higher). Furthermore, group membership predicted changes in peer social functioning.

Publication Title

Journal of Happiness Studies