Our research group broadly examines socialization within schools, and focuses, in particular on the psychological experience of respect and disrespect and its impact on children’s and adolescent’s social development. This research interest stems from my own experience as a high school teacher in a multiethnic classroom. I constantly heard other teachers and students complain about not getting respect, or being disrespected, but neither teachers nor students ever elaborated on why respect was important, what it meant, and why one deserved it. Nor why one was disrespected, what it meant, and how one “dealt” with being disrespected.
Respect and disrespect are concepts that are colloquially fundamental to children’s relations with others; children are expected to respect their parents and teachers and be respected by their classmates. They are expected to not be disrespectful to others. However, what it means for a child to (dis)respect a parent or a teacher, or to be (dis)respected by peers, likely varies across contexts and cultures. There has been little systematic research on how children understand and experience respect. More so, how respect functions within and across different individuals, relationships, groups, and contexts, is not well understood. And yet, children are expected to successfully navigate and manage respect across different relationships and situations.
Our group focuses specifically on how (dis)respect is understood and coordinated within children’s relationships and peer groups. We are also interested in how context and development influences children’s understanding of (dis)respect, and who is to be respected, in their interactions with others. The theoretical perspective of our lab is heavily influenced by the work of Robert Hinde (1987), who suggests that social development occurs within and across a hierarchy of levels- individuals, relationships, and groups- and that each level of the hierarchy provides a distinct contribution to development. More so, the classroom, school, and larger cultural norms influence the promotion and rejection of certain behaviors, and thus the context in which development occurs must be considered as well.
We conduct our research in local schools and after school programs. If you are interested in participating in our research, or are interested in a professional development workshop on fostering respect or understanding children’s peer relations, please fill out the contact information below.