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As children develop in elementary school, they are not only learning academic skills, but also learning skills important to socializing and interacting with others. Social-emotional development is characterized by expressing and managing emotions, while also building meaningful relationships with others (Cohen et al., 2005). Laying a strong foundation for social-emotional development at a young age is important because it helps promote factors such as confidence, trust, empathy, etc., and is associated with future mental health (Schulman, 2016).

Social-emotional development is also directly related to education. For children to achieve the most positive academic outcomes and success in school, social and emotional skills play an important role (Ladd, Kochenderfer, & Coleman, 1997; Raver, 2003). Prior research suggests that being able to build relationships with peers and teachers leads to class participation, engagement, and school liking (Ladd et al., 1999). These behaviors are predictive of positive academic outcomes and higher scores on standardized testing (Wentzel, 1993; Pasi, 2001; Malecki & Elliot, 2002; Haynes, Ben-Avie & Ensign, 2003).

In contrast, research suggests that children’s negative peer relationships, such as peer victimization, low peer acceptance, and friendship problems, also strongly predict their success in school (Ryan & Ladd, 2012). Children who are victimized by peers are less likely to engage and participate in the classroom. Children who are rejected by peers have lower academic performance and school maladjustment, including lower GPA, disruptive behaviors, and school avoidance (Ryan & Ladd, 2012).