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SOAR Project Studies Popularity and Bullying

What makes one child popular and another so unpopular that he or she frequently becomes a victim of bullying?

Guided by Michelle Schmidt, chair and associate professor of psychology, Emily Doll '12 investigated these and other issues associated with childhood bullying and victimization over the summer. The SOAR (Student Opportunities for Academic Research) project contributes to Dr. Schmidt's ongoing research on childhood aggression, mental health, and peer relations, topics that are all discussed in her forthcoming book, Friendships in Childhood and Adolescence.

Over the summer, Doll reviewed data that Dr. Schmidt and a colleague collected from four Bethlehem schools to determine what traits were associated with popularity and unpopularity in third- through fifth-graders. "There is a distinction between being popular and being liked," says Doll, a psychology major who hopes to become a speech pathologist or child psychologist after grad school. "The kids who were trendsetters in clothes or music, for example, weren’t necessarily liked."

"Teachers and parents need to become more aware of these traits," she adds. "They need to know how kids think and how relationships are important to them." Doll, who was homeschooled, has assisted at the School House Christian Preschool in Hellertown, Pa., for seven years, and now teaches her own class there. She hopes to continue her research with Dr. Schmidt over the coming years, perhaps looking at a preschool population for a future Honors project. "One summer is not long enough to explore this topic in depth," she said.