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Relationships Among Personal Space Boundaries, Peer Acceptance, and Peer Reputation in Adolescents


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Peer relationships are important to the health of adolescents who are at a developmental period of moving from parental influence to potentially dangerous peer influence. Interpersonal communication processes are logical antecedents of peer relationships. However, research in this area with adolescent populations is limited. Exploratory descriptive study using observational technique to collect nonverbal and verbal communication data on adolescents (N = 28). Observer ratings of personal boundaries and peer acceptance were correlated with anonymous peer ratings of sociability/leadership, aggressiveness/disruptiveness, and sensitivity/isolation, with comparisons made between males and females. Boundaries are related to peer acceptance and peer reputation and are interpreted differently in males and females. This study provides beginning evidence of the usefulness of Personal Space Boundary Theory in understanding adolescent behavior.
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JCAPN Volume 17, Number 1, January-March, 2004 29
Anne Scott Stiles, PhD, RN, and Thomas J. Raney, PhD
PROBLEM.Peer relationships are important to the
health of adolescents who are at a developmental
period of moving from parental influence to po-
tentially dangerous peer influence. Interpersonal
communication processes are logical antecedents
of peer relationships. However, research in this
area with adolescent populations is limited.
METHODS.Exploratory descriptive study using
observational technique to collect nonverbal and
verbal communication data on adolescents (N=
28). Observer ratings of personal boundaries and
peer acceptance were correlated with anonymous
peer ratings of sociability/leadership, aggressive-
ness/disruptiveness, and sensitivity/isolation, with
comparisons made between males and females.
FINDINGS. Boundaries are related to peer accep-
tance and peer reputation and are interpreted dif-
ferently in males and females.
CONCLUSIONS.This study provides beginning
evidence of the usefulness of Personal Space
Boundary Theory in understanding adolescent
Search terms: Adolescents, aggression, commu-
nication, isolation, peer reputation, personal
space boundaries
Relationships Among Personal Space Boundaries,
Peer Acceptance, and Peer Reputation in Adolescents
Anne Scott Stiles, PhD, RN, is Professor, Texas Woman’s
University College of Nursing, Denton, Texas. Thomas J.
Raney, PhD, is Assistant Professor, University of Arkansas
for Medical Sciences Department of Pediatrics, Little Rock,
All of us live in a castle. Around the castle, there is
a moat, and over the moat there is a drawbridge
which we can lower open or raise shut, depending
upon our will. (Peck, 1997, p. 189)
Peck, a psychiatrist and prolific author, stated that in
his many years of practicing psychotherapy, it seemed at
least half his patients had what he called drawbridge
problems. His patients’ drawbridges were either laid
open all the time, or stuck shut. If open, virtually anyone
and everyone could amble into their personal space, stay
as long as they like, and do whatever harm they would.
If shut, their drawbridges prevented everyone and
everything from penetrating their isolated solitude. Nei-
ther case was healthy (Peck, 1997).
Nurses and other healthcare providers have long been
involved in helping clients learn how to interact appro-
priately with other people. Interpersonal skill training
has been an effective intervention strategy with socially
rejected children (Malik & Furman, 1994), patients diag-
nosed with schizophrenia (Corrigan, 2002), juveniles
who offend sexually (Lane, 1997), aggressive children
and adults (Goldstein & Glick, 1987; Ollendick & Hersen,
1979), and children with impulse control problems
(Achenbach, 1992; Burrows, 2001).
Typically, an individual’s social skills are assessed
based on the frequency at which positive and negative be-
haviors occur, or by the ratings of individuals interacting
with the subject. Social skills training often focuses on in-
creasing positive behaviors (e.g., sharing feelings, assertive
communication) and decreasing negative ones (e.g.,
avoidant eye contact, social withdrawal). However, the
complexity of social interactions makes it impossible to
define a set of behaviors as “positive” or “negative,” when
so much of social skill is the ability to make judgments
Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, Volume 16,
Number 4, pp. 29–40.
30 JCAPN Volume 17, Number 1, January-March, 2004
and control one’s behavior based on the social demands
of the situation. For example, sharing intimate feelings is
appropriate if one knows the other person is trustworthy,
but inappropriate if one doesn’t know the other person
enough to judge his/her trustworthiness. Often, adoles-
cent girls open themselves up to physical intimacy and
consequential emotional pain through an inability to
judge others and/or control their own behavior. What
has been lacking is a theoretical framework that provides
a manner of conceptualizing the overarching patterns of
mistakes people make socially so that those types of er-
rors can be addressed specifically. Because nurses have
the skills and social mandate to assess how their clients
interact with other people and their environment, and
because they often have long-term contact with clients,
they are in an excellent position to identify, counsel, and
possibly refer clients who have patterns of interaction
that place them at risk for physical and mental health
Personal Space Boundaries
Personal space boundaries have been defined as the
metaphorical separation between the person and his/her
environment—where the person ends and the external
environment begins. According to Personal Space
Boundary (PSB) theory (Scott, 1993, 1998a, 1998b; Scott &
Dumas, 1995), the permeability of the boundary regu-
lates the quantity and quality of stimuli that enter and
exit the internal physical, mental, and spiritual environ-
ment of the individual. People with a closed boundary
put up a wall between them and others or close their
drawbridge, choosing not to listen or talk to others. Peo-
ple with an open boundary have taken down their wall,
or opened their drawbridge and invite others into their
space. They may show this by listening to others intently
or by sharing something personal about their life. People
who are unable to open their personal boundary to oth-
ers may appear callous, aloof, or rude, and they may
miss social cues and opportunities for intimacy. There-
fore, they may have few, if any, friends and may be iso-
lated from others. They may feel that others reject them,
although it is they who are signaling a desire for isola-
tion. On the other hand, if people open their boundary
indiscriminately, peers also may reject them, because dif-
fuse friendliness is sometimes viewed by others as a sign
that the person cannot be trusted with the secrets of
friendship. Thus, a flexible boundary that is appropri-
ately open to some and closed to others is the healthiest
type of boundary (Scott, 1988, 1993; Scott & Dumas). Per-
sonal Space Boundary theory categorizes measurable be-
haviors according to specific types of personal space
boundaries: briefly, behaviors that are receptive (incom-
ing open), blocking and protective (incoming closed),
giving of self (outgoing open), and secretive or private
(outgoing closed).
During adolescence the important
interpersonal relationships shift from the
parent-child relationship dominant during
childhood to peer relationships.
Because adolescence is marked by dramatic changes
in cognitive, social, and emotional development that di-
rectly affects interpersonal relationships, personal
boundaries are highly pertinent to adolescents. Early
adolescence is characterized by the establishment of a
sense of self as it relates to others (Damon & Hart, 1988).
During adolescence the important interpersonal relation-
ships shift from the parent-child relationship dominant
during childhood to peer relationships (Collins, 1990;
Flannery, Torquati, & Lindemeier, 1994).
Teens vary in their degree of tolerance to personal
space violations and may lack the social skills needed to
effectively respond to others who have violated their
personal space (Dowd & Tierney, 1992). They may sub-
mit to the aggressor out of fear, or, conversely, they may
Relationships Among Personal Space Boundaries, Peer Acceptance, and Peer Reputation
in Adolescents
JCAPN Volume 17, Number 1, January-March, 2004 31
react with physical violence. The effectiveness with
which one communicates personal space boundaries can
serve to either protect or jeopardize relationships (Scott
& Dumas, 1995). For example, by submitting to a person
who is intruding into one’s personal space, one relin-
quishes control and becomes vulnerable to the intruder.
Peer Acceptance/Rejection
Peer rejection is related to interpersonal communica-
tion problems and social role functioning (Riley, Ens-
minger, Green, & Kang, 1998). Studies of incompetent
communicators suggest those who are unable or unwill-
ing to become involved in conversations are more likely
than other students to experience loneliness, anomie,
alienation, and mental illness (Coker & Burgoon, 1987;
Spitzberg & Cupach, 1984).
Students who are rejected by peers in elementary and
junior high school are much more likely to drop out of
school before graduation (Coie, Dodge, & Kupersmidt,
1990; Parker & Asher, 1987), get lower grades (Riley et
al., 1998; Wentzel & Caldwell, 1997), have school-related
problems (Woodward & Fergusson, 2000), commit juve-
nile and adult crimes (Roff & Wirt, 1984), and be diag-
nosed with adult psychopathology (John, Mednick, &
Schulsinger, 1982; Parker & Asher; Riley et al.; Roff &
Wirt). Over the past 50 years, research has consistently
shown that children who are neglected or rejected by
peers tend to be more aggressive, disruptive, or isolated
(Coie et al.). Thus, rejected children appear to be a high-
risk group (Morison & Masten, 1991; Riley et al.).
Social competence. The development of satisfying
peer relationships is a salient task of adolescence. Barber
(1997) highlights three critical attributes to be fostered dur-
ing adolescence: connection, regulation, and psychological
autonomy. Connection refers to positive interpersonal re-
lationships with significant others to whom adolescents
can connect emotionally (Collins & Repinski, 1994). Regu-
lation begins with external regulation by parents in terms
of supervision, monitoring, rule setting and behavioral
control (Barber, Olsen, & Shagle, 1994) and evolves into
self-regulation of behavior (Barber et al.). Psychological
autonomy refers to the development of an independent
sense of identity, efficacy, and worth (Barber et al.).
Peer reputation is widely recognized as an important
index of social competence (Morison & Masten, 1991).
Masten, Morison, and Pelligrini (1985), for example, cor-
related peer status sociometric ratings (popular, rejected,
neglected) with three subscale scores (Sociable/Leader-
ship, Aggressive/Disruptive, and Sensitive/Isolated) of
the Revised Class Play (RCP) in second- through sixth-
graders. They discovered that children seen by their
peers as socially skilled, outgoing, or natural leaders are
well liked, and those seen as aggressive or overly sensi-
tive are not liked by peers.
Despite multiple studies showing strong connections
among social functioning, peer acceptance, academic per-
formance, aggression, and psychopathology, few early
behavioral indicators of later problems have been found
(Riley et al., 1998), and the causal pathways to dysfunc-
tion remain unclear. Finding a method of identifying
preschool or school-age children who are at risk for later
problems would dramatically improve chances of reme-
diating numerous social issues surrounding adolescence.
No empirical validation has been found on the an-
tecedents and consequences of specific types of personal
space boundaries, but psychometric studies have indi-
cated that personal space boundary characteristics can be
identified with adequate validity and reliability in 3- to
5-year-old children (Scott, 1986) and adults (Scott, 1998b).
The study reported in this article explores the relation-
ships among personal space boundaries, peer accep-
tance, and social competence in teenagers.
PSB theory may provide a useful heuristic to more ef-
ficiently conceptualize and perhaps measure social be-
havior. In teens, it may offer a relatively easy way for
healthcare professionals to quickly assess the patterns of
social behavior that contribute to yielding to peer pres-
sure involving risky health behaviors such as promiscu-
ous sex or smoking. Likewise, using this heuristic could
identify teens who have a pattern of withdrawal and iso-
lation from peers, which could contribute to loneliness
and depression. According to PSB theory, a pattern of so-
cial behavior that exhibits flexible boundaries is the
32 JCAPN Volume 17, Number 1, January-March, 2004
Relationships Among Personal Space Boundaries, Peer Acceptance, and Peer Reputation
in Adolescents
healthiest pattern (Scott & Dumas, 1995). Strategies that
focus on changing unhealthy social patterns through au-
tonomous boundary regulation could strengthen the
teen’s ability to become more flexible.
This exploratory descriptive study used an observa-
tional technique to collect nonverbal and verbal interper-
sonal communication data on two gender-specific
groups of adolescents. Following appropriate institu-
tional review board approval, parental consent, and ado-
lescent assent, four meetings of one Boy Scout troop and
four meetings of one Girl Scout troop were videotaped
using two cameras from February through May 2000.
The scout leader was asked to conduct meetings as
usual. To decrease obtrusiveness, the researcher sat qui-
etly either at the periphery of the room or in an adjoining
room. Following each session, Scout members were
asked to anonymously complete a peer reputation scale
(Revised Class Play).
Boundaries. Because no observational instrument
exists for measuring boundaries in adolescents, the first
author [Stiles] developed a rating instrument. The pre-
viously developed observational measurement for 3- to
5-year-old children (Scott, 1986) and the self-report
measurement for adults (Scott, 1998b) were not appro-
priate for adolescents. According to PSB theory, there
are four boundary dimensions: incoming physical
boundaries, incoming mental boundaries, outgoing
physical boundaries, and outgoing mental boundaries.
The four boundary dimensions were rated on a 5-point
Likert-type scale from closed (1) to open (5) for each indi-
vidual in a series of 30-second periods. Operational def-
initions of the dimensions were based on a review of
nonverbal communications literature and the results of
a year-long ethnographic study examining how bound-
aries are communicated in nursing students (Scott,
Incoming physical boundary. The incoming physical
boundary (IPB) was defined as being receptive to some-
one touching, coming within 3 feet in proximity, or re-
ceiving an object. A rating of 1 reflected strong nonrecep-
tivity, while a 5 reflected strong receptivity to touch, such
as opening arms wide when someone approached, not
resisting someone coming close, or receiving an object
plus exhibiting at least one of the other characteristics in
this category.
Incoming mental boundary. The incoming mental
boundary (IMB) was defined as being receptive to some-
one’s feelings or thoughts, either negative or positive. A
rating of 1 reflected strong nonreceptivity as evidenced
by turning the body away from the person talking, walk-
ing away from the person, or changing the subject of
conversation. A rating of 5 indicated strong receptivity
via being attentive, listening, maintaining eye contact,
nodding, facing the person directly, maintaining close
proximity, or leaning toward the person talking (Bur-
goon, 1985; Coker & Burgoon, 1987).
Outgoing physical boundary. The outgoing physical
boundary (OPB) was defined as physically reaching out
to touch someone, moving closer in proximity to some-
one, or giving a personal belonging or object to someone.
Arating of 1 was given if the subject kept his hands to
himself and avoided touching others, moving his body
close to another person, or giving objects to others. A rat-
ing of 5 was given if the subject moved within 3 feet of
another and remained there during most of the 30 sec-
onds, hit or touched a person more than once, or gave a
person one or more objects more than once during the
30-second period.
Outgoing mental boundary. The outgoing mental
boundary (OMB) was defined as the expression of one’s
feelings, thoughts, or emotions with others, whether neg-
ative or positive. This code measured the depth of the ex-
pression. For example, no disclosure was rated 1, a rela-
tively shallow disclosure (e.g., “I feel hungry”) was rated
2, and an intimate thought (e.g., “I feel betrayed by my
best friend”) was rated 5.
To calculate a single boundary score for each individ-
ual on each dimension (IPB, IMB, OPB, OMB), the mean
JCAPN Volume 17, Number 1, January-March, 2004 33
rating was calculated for that individual across all the 30-
second ratings within that single-item dimension. Thus,
each subject had four boundary scores: IPB, IMB, OPB,
and OMB.
The principal investigator (PI) completed 12.5% of the
ratings, Research Assistant 1 (RA1), 81.8%, and Research
Assistant 2, 5.7%. Following the training of RAs, inter-
rater reliability was calculated using percent agreement
between raters for random pages of 30-second entries.
Because the PI and RA1 coded 94.3% of the data, these
two coders were tested at the beginning and end of the
study. The mean interrater reliability for the entire instru-
ment (97 different verbal and nonverbal behaviors in ad-
dition to the four single-item boundary ratings) was 83%
at the beginning of the study and 84% at the end. Fol-
lowing initial training, practice, and retraining, interrater
agreement (within one Likert scale point) for each of the
four single-item boundary dimensions was IPB 88%,
IMB 96%, OPB 73%, and OMB 58%. Disagreements be-
tween raters were resolved by discussing them with the
second author [Raney], a child psychologist.
Peer acceptance. The researchers examined the ado-
lescents as they interacted during each 30-second inter-
val on the videotapes, looking for those who appeared to
be accepted by the group and those who appeared not to
be accepted. Invitations to participate in a group, inclu-
sion in a group activity, or obvious congenial interaction
were considered indicators of acceptance. Indicators of
nonacceptance were being ignored or turned down by
peers when requesting entrance into an activity, being
treated in a negative or mean-spirited way, or being
called a name. The individual was rated on a continuum
of rejected (1) to accepted (5) during the 30-second cod-
ing period. Following initial training, practice, and re-
training, interrater agreement (within one Likert scale
point) for the single item was 96%.
Revised class play. The Revised Class Play (RCP)
(Masten et al., 1985) to measure peer reputation has been
widely used in social research. The adolescent is asked to
pretend that he/she is the director of a play and cast
his/her peers for the part for which they are best suited.
There are 30 “roles” and he/she may anonymously
nominate one person, excluding himself/herself, for
more than one role. The adolescent is asked not to share
the nominations with others.
The RCP measures three dimensions (subscales) of
peer reputation that are related to social competence: so-
ciability/leadership (SL), aggressiveness/disruptiveness
(AD), and sensitivity/isolation (SI). Example are for SL,
“Choose someone in your class who could play the part
of a person who is a good leader”; for AD, “Choose
someone in your class who is too bossy”; and for SI,
“Choose someone in your class who gets feelings hurt
easily.” Alpha reliability coefficients of the three scores in
previous studies were as follows: SL scale, .95 and .93;
AD scale, .93 and .90; and SI scale, .85 and .81. Good
cross-sex reliability was shown. The 6-month stability
correlations (N= 161) were .87, .77, and .80 for the SL,
AD, and SI scales, respectively. After 17 months, the sta-
bility correlations (N= 163) remained robust: .63, .64, .66,
respectively (Masten et al., 1985). Alpha reliabilities
within this study were SL .96, AD .81, and SI .94.
The advantage of this method over sociometric meth-
ods is that instead of being rated by only one or two
peers, each group member may be nominated by all
other group members on each attribute in question.
Summing the responses of multiple group members is
likely to control for potentially biased information for
any particular peer (Cole & White, 1993). Nominating
peers implies an evaluative process in which peer char-
acteristics are considered in relation to the goals and
norms of the group (Scholte, van Aken, & van Lieshout,
There were 16 tapes from two different camera angles
of eight meetings (four Boy Scout, four Girl Scout). Each
tape ran from 60 to 120 minutes. Two to four 5-minute
segments of tape were randomly selected from each tape
using a table of random numbers. Then, each 5-minute
segment was broken down into 30-second intervals.
Next, each subject appearing in the tape was coded for
boundaries and peer acceptance. Thus, if only one person
34 JCAPN Volume 17, Number 1, January-March, 2004
Relationships Among Personal Space Boundaries, Peer Acceptance, and Peer Reputation
in Adolescents
appeared in the tape over the 5 minutes, there were ten
30-second observations. If two subjects were in the seg-
ment, there were twenty 30-second observations (there
were up to six subjects in each segment). Thus, the total
number of 30-second observations from each tape
ranged from 87 to 214, resulting in 2,020 30-second ob-
servations. The Boy Scouts had 130 minutes of tape
coded, the Girl Scouts 117 minutes.
The sample consisted of 14 males, 10 to 16 years of
age (M= 12.64, SD = 1.74), and 14 females, 11 to 15 years
of age (M= 13.75, SD = 1.42) (Table 1). The racial com-
posite of the two groups was quite different, with males
being mostly white and females all African American.
Several members of the troops were eliminated from the
study because they were not captured on tape during the
randomly selected episodes, or they had fewer than ten
30-second intervals coded.
There were statistically significant differences between
males and females in two out of four of the boundary di-
mensions (Table 2): incoming physical boundaries, with
males more open than females, and incoming mental
boundaries, with females more open than males. There-
fore, males and females were analyzed separately. Out-
going mental boundaries were slightly more closed than
the other three boundary dimensions in both genders.
Incoming and outgoing physical boundaries exhibited a
normal distribution (bell curve) in both genders. Incom-
ing mental boundaries were negatively skewed (tended
toward more open) in both genders, and outgoing men-
tal boundaries were positively skewed (tended toward
more closed) in males. In females, outgoing mental
boundaries were evenly distributed between the ratings
of 1 and 4, with no one scoring a 5.
Peer Acceptance
Peer acceptance was difficult to judge in these two
groups, perhaps because they were scouts and the cul-
ture emphasizes being kind to one another. There were
very few conflicts observed during the eight sessions
(four Boy Scout meetings and four Girl Scout meet-
ings). Despite a normal distribution, the range of rat-
ings was narrow, indicating that few individuals were
Table 1. Sample Characteristics
Males (n= 14) Females (n= 14)
Range 10–16 11–15
Median 12 14
Mean (SD)12.64 (1.74) 13.75 (1.42)
Race 13 Caucasian, 1 Asian 14 African American
Number of 977 (48.4%) 1,042 (51.6%)
Table 2. Description of Boundary Ratings Using
Mean Boundary Rating for Each Individual
Across All 30-Second Observations
Boundary Male Female Mann-
Dimension (n= 14) (n= 14) Whitney U
Incoming physical U= 55, p= .05
Range 3.01–3.89 2.89–3.5
Median 3.19 3.08
Incoming mental U= 51, p= .03
Range 3.21–4.33 3.16–3.85
Median 3.40 3.65
Outgoing physical U= 95, p= .89
Range 2.57–3.92 2.16–3.50
Median 3.12 3.00
Outgoing mental U= 58, p= .07
Range 1.29–3.04 1.13–3.50
Median 2.00 2.63
JCAPN Volume 17, Number 1, January-March, 2004 35
rated as either highly accepted or highly unaccepted
(Table 3).
Peer Reputation
Peer reputations varied widely between genders.
Each individual obtained a score based on the frequency
with which his/her peers nominated him/her for vari-
ous “roles” in the RCP. Males had a greater variance than
females on all three dimensions of the RCP. The median
nomination score differed between genders in SL and
AD but not the SI (Table 4).
Using Spearman’s rho, bivariate correlations were cal-
culated between the four dimensions of boundaries, peer
acceptance, and peer reputation. The correlation between
IPB and IMB was –.18, between IPB and OPB .42, be-
tween IPB and OMB .36. The correlation between IMB
and OPB was .03, and between IMB and OMB .06. The
correlation between OPB and OMB was .29. All these
low-to-moderate correlations indicate that each bound-
ary dimension is separate. Two out of four of the bound-
ary types in females and three out of four boundary
types in males were significantly and positively corre-
lated with peer acceptance (Table 5). There was a moder-
ate, although not significant, inverse correlation between
open incoming mental boundaries and peer acceptance
in males, such that the less receptive the male, the greater
the peer acceptance. The correlation between the same
variables in females was positive.
Only two correlations between boundaries and peer
reputation were significant. There was an inverse correla-
tion between IMBs and SI in males (r= –.60, p<.05); boys
who were rated as having more open IMBs were also
rated by peers as less sensitive/isolated. There was also a
significant correlation between OMBs and AD in females
(r= .65, p<.05); those who were rated as having open
OMBs were rated by peers as more aggressive (Table 6).
Boundaries and Peer Acceptance
Despite the narrow range of scores on peer accep-
tance, some correlations were significant. In females,
Table 4. Measures of Central Tendency and
Dispersion for RCP
RCP Dimension Male Female Mann-Whitney U
Sociability/leadership U= 39, p= .007
Range 8–112 0–64
Median 39 11
Aggressive/disruptive U= 42, p= .009
Range 0–76 0–43
Median 14 1
Sensitive/isolated U= 59, p= .070
• Range 0–190 0–20
• Median 4.5 1
Table 5. Correlations Between Boundaries and Peer
Peer Acceptance
Boundary Dimension Female (n= 14) Male (n= 14)
Incoming physical r= .88br= .86b
Incoming mental r= .21 r= –.40
Outgoing physical r= .36 r= .57b
Outgoing mental r= .78br= .63b
aUsing the mean score for each subject in peer acceptance and
bp<.05 level (2-tailed) using Spearman’s rho
Table 3. Differences Between Genders in Peer
Acceptance Ratings
Male Female
Range 2.81–3.89 2.75–3.60
Mean (SD) 3.30 (.38) 3.21 (.25)
Median 3.15 3.16
Mann-Whitney U: U= .83, p= .70
36 JCAPN Volume 17, Number 1, January-March, 2004
Relationships Among Personal Space Boundaries, Peer Acceptance, and Peer Reputation
in Adolescents
open incoming physical boundaries were correlated pos-
itively with peer acceptance (r= .88, p<.05). That is, girls
who were more accepted were those who were receptive
to being hugged or allowing other people to stand
within 3 feet. This positive response to physical openness
in females is not surprising since girls typically give, as
well as receive, more touch than males (Burgoon, 1985).
However, the correlation between open incoming physi-
cal boundaries and peer acceptance was nearly as strong
in males as in females (r= .86, p<.05). That is, boys who
were accepted were also boys who allowed other people
to stand within three feet of them. The researchers did
not observe much, if any, hugging between boys; fre-
quently, however, boys would put a hand on a shoulder,
stand side-by-side, or rough-house play, which involved
physical contact. Thus, while there was a gender differ-
ence in the demonstration of physical closeness, close-
ness was linked almost equally to peer acceptance in
both genders.
The second type of boundary that was significantly
correlated with peer acceptance in both females (r= .78,
p<.05) and males (r= .63, p<.05) was outgoing mental
boundaries. Adolescents who were accepted were those
who freely expressed their thoughts, feelings, and opin-
ions. The relationships observed between expressiveness
and popularity can be explained in a variety of ways. To
express oneself openly requires some level of social dis-
inhibition, which may come from a degree of confidence
or self-comfort that is attractive to others. It also may be
that children who are liked for other reasons are more
likely to feel comfortable speaking their mind. In addi-
tion, one never has to guess the feelings or thoughts of
the person who is expressive (open), whereas one never
knows the feelings or thoughts of the person who is in-
expressive (closed). Lack of expressiveness can make
others ill at ease.
Outgoing physical boundaries were significantly
correlated with peer acceptance in males (r= .57,
p<.05), but not females (r= .36, p>.05); boys who got
physically close or touched other boys were the most
accepted. The finding in males was not surprising,
since males tend to express themselves more readily
through physical play. The insignificant finding in fe-
males however, was surprising since there was such a
strong correlation between incoming physical openness
and peer acceptance. That is, even though girls who
were receptive to physical closeness were well accepted
(r= .88, p<.05), girls who were doing the touching were
not as well accepted (r= .36, p>.05). One possible expla-
nation is that touching among girls is commonplace
and, therefore, not a significant behavior; however, re-
ceptivity to touch communicates an appreciation for the
Using Cohen’s criteria for small, medium, and large
effect sizes (Cohen & Cohen, 1983), there was a moder-
ate, albeit statistically insignificant, inverse correlation
between incoming mental boundaries and peer accep-
tance in males (r= –.40, p>.05). However, the correla-
Table 6. Correlations Between Boundaries and Peer Reputation Using Revised Class Play
Boundary Dimensions
Incoming Physical Incoming Mental Outgoing Physical Outgoing Mental
Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male
Leadership/sociability .37 .19 –.30 –.33 –.01 –.12 .57 .44
Aggressive/disruptive .17 .32 –.53 –.31 .19 .17 .65a.18
Sensitivity/isolation –.58 –.43 .00 –.60a.14 –.26 –.21 –.18
ap<.05 level using Spearman’s rho
JCAPN Volume 17, Number 1, January-March, 2004 37
tion between the same variables in females was posi-
tive (r= .21, p>.05). To restate, boys who were recep-
tive to others’ feelings, thoughts, or opinions, as evi-
denced by eye contact, nodding, maintaining close
proximity, or leaning toward the person, were less ac-
cepted, but girls who were receptive were more ac-
cepted. It may be that boys interpret such behavior as
being overly sensitive or indicative of a follower rather
than a leader. It also may make them uncomfortable to
have another boy be that interested in them. Females,
more than males, communicate empathy using non-
verbal behaviors such as head nods, smiles, and eye
gaze (Burgoon, 1985).
Boundaries and Peer Reputation
There were two significant correlations between
boundaries and peer reputation. In males, IMBs were
inversely correlated with SI (r= –.60, p= .02). That is,
males who were perceived as less sensitive/isolated
tended to be rated as more receptive to others’
thoughts and feelings. The SI scale includes items such
as would rather play alone than with others, gets feel-
ings hurt easily, has trouble making friends, is often
left out. Thus “hypersensitive” may be a more accurate
label for the scale than “sensitivity/isolation.” Given
these items, it makes sense that people who are good
listeners and empathetic to others (incoming open
mental boundaries) are less likely to be hypersensitive,
shy, or isolated.
In females, OMBs (expressiveness) were positively
correlated with AD (r= .65, p= .03). That is, peers per-
ceived females who were more expressive of their
thoughts as more aggressive and disruptive. Interest-
ingly, males had a lower correlation of .18 in this cate-
gory. This indicates that while the sharing of thoughts
and feelings is perceived as aggressive in females, in
males it is not perceived as such. Perhaps this indicates a
gender bias in adolescents within the Western culture.
Males. Males scored higher than females in peer-
rated SL and AD. Incoming mental boundaries in males
had inverse correlations with SL (r= –.33, p>.05), AD (r=
–.31, p>.05), and SI (r= –.60, p<.05). This is interesting,
since one would expect sociability to be inversely related
to sensitivity/isolation. This leads to the possibility that
one’s incoming mental boundaries may moderate or me-
diate how others perceive one.
Females. In females, OMBs were moderately and
positively correlated with peer ratings of SL (r= .57,
p>.05) and AD (r= .65, p<.05). Intuitively this makes
sense, as having permeable outgoing mental boundaries
implies that one expresses opinions, be they positive or
negative. In addition, OMBs are negatively correlated
with SI (r= –.21, p>.05). Sometimes people who are opin-
ionated or highly verbal may be viewed as not overly
sensitive to others. Interestingly, in females OMBs corre-
lated strongly with aggressiveness (r= .65, p<.05) and
peer acceptance (r= .78, p<.05). Aggressiveness is gener-
ally evaluated as a negative trait but within this sample it
was viewed as positive. The teen troop leader who was
intelligent, pretty, and nice to everyone can illustrate this
phenomenon. In trying to control the group, she would
become bossy and lose her temper. She remained highly
accepted by the group despite her aggressiveness.
In females, open IMBs were negatively correlated
with AD (r= –.53, p>.05). This is a plausible finding as
incoming mental boundaries imply empathy and recep-
tiveness to others, which would be very different than
Lastly, in females, open IPBs were moderately and
negatively correlated with SI (r= –.58, p>.05). Females
who were more physically receptive were perceived as
less sensitive/isolated. Again, these are expected find-
ings when items on the SI scale are examined. The more
overly sensitive (gets feelings hurt easily) and isolated
the individual, the less open he/she is to receiving touch
from others. Interestingly, Masten et al. (1985) found that
sociability/leadership correlated with peer-rated social
status (r= .56–.75) in various studies. Aggressive/dis-
ruptive and sensitive/isolated behavior correlated nega-
tively with social status (r = –.32 to –.49, r= –.30 to –.71,
respectively). These correlations indicate that peers like
children who are sociable and do not like those who are
aggressive or overly sensitive.
38 JCAPN Volume 17, Number 1, January-March, 2004
Relationships Among Personal Space Boundaries, Peer Acceptance, and Peer Reputation
in Adolescents
The findings from this study reveal that male and fe-
male adolescents view openness in physical and emotional
behavior differently, and some behaviors that are related to
peer acceptance differ in females versus males. The moder-
ate to strong correlations between various dimensions of
PSBs, peer acceptance, and peer reputation provide begin-
ning evidence of the validity and usefulness of PSB Theory
in understanding adolescent behavior. While more re-
search is needed to test PSB Theory, findings from this
study found a strong relationship between peer acceptance
and permeable IPBs and OMBs in both genders. In addi-
tion, permeable OMBs were strongly correlated with socia-
bility/leadership, which has historically been correlated
with peer status and popularity (Masten et al., 1985).
The PSB theory provides a unique new heuristic to as-
sess problematic social behavior. By assessing the appro-
priate functioning of outgoing and incoming boundaries,
mental health professionals can pinpoint patterns of so-
cial errors or deficits in interpersonal communication. In-
stead of a laundry list of problematic behavior, social
deficits may be more accurately viewed as a recurring
pattern of a specific type of boundary behavior. For ex-
ample, observation of indiscriminate open boundaries or
consistently closed boundaries in teens should alert the
healthcare provider to provide further assessment and
counseling, or refer the teen to a psychologist. Teaching
healthy boundary self-regulation may be far more en-
compassing an intervention than tackling the behaviors
piecemeal. Through educational group sessions or a
long-term relationship with a teen, the nurse can help the
teen understand how and when to open or close per-
sonal space boundaries.
Role-playing can help teens practice becoming sen-
sitive to the boundaries of others as well as identifying
their own lack of comfort when their boundaries are
violated. A workbook for teens on boundaries offers
excellent stories and exercises (Peter & Dowd, 2000). In
a school or clinic, these activities may enhance the
teen’s ability to prevent such problems as date rape
and submitting to peer pressure. In a residential psy-
chiatric setting, these activities may help teens gain
further awareness and control over their behavior in
healthy ways.
More applied research needs to be done in the area of
PSBs to enhance the pragmatic adequacy of this theory. It
is not clear whether open personal boundaries lead to in-
creased peer acceptance, or peer acceptance leads to
more open personal boundaries. Also, peers may be
more open and experience more acceptance due to an
unidentified third variable, such as success in extracur-
ricular activities. The observational instrument should be
refined and tested on a larger population. An adolescent
self-report instrument similar to the adult version would
be more efficient in terms of administration, cost, and
time. This instrument could be validated against the ob-
servation of nonverbal and verbal behaviors.
Despite the interesting findings in this study, interpre-
tations should be made with caution in light of the fol-
lowing limitations. First, the different racial composition
of the two groups could have explained some of the varia-
tion between groups, since culture does influence PSBs
(Ashcroft & Scheflen, 1976; Derlega & Chaikin, 1975; Peck,
1997; Scott, 1993). A second limitation is the small conve-
nience sample of a subculture (Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts) that
may not generalize to all adolescents. Third, the researcher-
developed instrument was new and previously untested.
While the interrater reliability of the entire observational in-
strument was acceptable (M= 83.6%), one of the four
boundary dimensions, OMBs, was more problematic (58%).
Thus, findings related to this dimension should be viewed
with caution. Lastly, the design of the study did not attempt
to measure “appropriateness” nor “flexibility” of PSBs.
The PSB theory was partially supported in that the
four dimensions were different from one another and
from peer acceptance, sociability/leadership, sensitiv-
ity/isolation, and aggressiveness. While further testing is
needed to validate this theory, this study indicates that
PSB Theory has potential use as a more efficient way of
conceptualizing social behavior that offers new strategies
JCAPN Volume 17, Number 1, January-March, 2004 39
for helping teens assert themselves in risky social situa-
tions and improve peer relationships.
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... She has studied personal boundaries since 1985, including developing a theory on personal space boundaries (Scott, 1993;Sco^ & Dumas, 1995) and developing instruments to measune^boundaries in 3 to ŷ ear old children. (Scott 1986), adolescents (Stiles & Raney, 2004), and adults (Scott, 1997a). Studies include a qualitative ethnographic study looking atJ>oundaries in nursing students (Scott, 1997b), psychometric studies of the instruments (Scott, 1986(Scott, , 1997a, and an observational study on boundaries in adblescents- (Stiles & Raney, 2004). ...
... (Scott 1986), adolescents (Stiles & Raney, 2004), and adults (Scott, 1997a). Studies include a qualitative ethnographic study looking atJ>oundaries in nursing students (Scott, 1997b), psychometric studies of the instruments (Scott, 1986(Scott, , 1997a, and an observational study on boundaries in adblescents- (Stiles & Raney, 2004). Her clinical practice has been primarily pediatrics with a sub-specialty in child psychiatric nursing. ...
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Abstract: In the literature there is overlap and ambiguity in the types, uses, and definitions of boundaries. The purpose of this article is to clarify the concept of boundaries and offer suggestions on how nurses can apply the concept therapeutically to assist clients in healing their boundaries. WhUe there are many useful definitions, the two over-riding categories of the concej>t are personal boundaries and relational boundaries. To guide the discussion, a taxonomy of the various uses of the term boundary is proposed. A synthesis definition and example for personal boundary and relational boundary is discussed, followed by a comparison of the characteristics of these two types of boundaries. Nurses who practice in a variety of specialties including family, school, and psychiatric nursing may identify and intervene in personal or relational boundary problems in their clients. This article contains symptoms of boundary problems, suggested contexts for intervening, and eight steps to facilitate the healing of boundaries. Keywords: Boundaries, Personal Boundaries, Relational Boundaries, Clarification of Boundaries, Therapeutic Guidelines
... A modified version of the taxonomy developed during the ethnography was used to develop a coding scheme for observing adolescent boys and girls to assess the relationship among personal space boundaries, peer acceptance, and peer reputation in adolescents (Stiles & Raney, 2004). In this study, 14 males (aged 10 to 16 years) and 14 females (aged 12 to 15 years) were videotaped during four Girl Scout and four Boy Scout meetings. ...
... The Scott Stiles PSB theory (Scott, 1988(Scott, , 1993Scott & Dumas, 1995;Stiles & Raney, 2004) that stimulated the creation of the RSD model using Russian stacking dolls offers unlimited opportunities to work directly with clients, understand the therapeutic relationship, and gain personal insight. Although therapeutic awareness of personal space boundaries is possible without the use of the dolls, the dolls provide a visible, concrete tool to understand this difficult, abstract concept. ...
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Personal Space Boundary theory, developed by the first author in 1986, explains the complexities of privacy and intimacy within human beings. The way that people choose to relate to others is dependent on the permeability and flexibility of their personal space boundaries. The experience of trauma can damage the functioning of one's boundaries. The introduction of a new analog model of the theory, Russian Stacking Dolls, will demonstrate how the theory provides insight and facilitates healing in adults who have suffered some sort of trauma. The purpose of this article is to review the theory's evolution and provide clinical examples of how this theory is currently being used in practice with Russian Stacking Dolls. Limitations and cautions for use with certain clients are explicated.
... Severe self-ideal discrepancies (Mason et al., 2019;Schweizer et al., 2020), and associated alterations in brain network connectivity (Lanius et al., 2020), are operationalized as a view of oneself as irreparably damaged and defective (Herman, 1992). Dysregulation in relationships takes several forms, including avoidant and aggressive modes of relational engagement and social information processing (McLaughlin et al., 2020;Schweizer et al., 2020), expectancy of betrayal (Choi & Kangas, 2020;Gagnon et al., 2016), disorganized attachment and rejection sensitivity (Foxhall et al., 2019;Snyder et al., 2019), enmeshed or permeable/dependent psychological boundaries (Geanellos, 2003;Kerig, 2005;Shaffer & Sroufe, 2005;Stiles, 2004;Stiles & Raney, 2004), and excessive or deficient empathy (Chen et al., 2021;Espejo-Siles et al., 2020;Malti et al., 2010). ...
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Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) was proposed almost two decades ago as a psychiatric diagnosis for children who have been traumatically victimized and whose attachment bonding with primary caregivers has been compromised. DTD was designed to complement and extend post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by addressing forms of trauma-related biopsychosocial dysregulation not included in PTSD, many of which are attributed to other psychiatric disorders. In the past decade, evidence from clinician surveys and research field trial studies has provided evidence of DTD’s validity and potential clinical utility. The growing evidence base for DTD is summarized and clinical rationales for the proposed DTD symptoms are described. DTD shows promise as a developmentally-attuned traumatic stress diagnosis for traumatized children.
... Pelo contrário, as crianças pouco populares entram num círculo de isolamento, que as faz não só afastar-se dos colegas mas também diminui cada vez mais as suas hipóteses de aceitação social (Matos, 1998). Nas crianças e adolescentes socialmente rejeitadas, associam-se a agressividade, o desajustamento ou o isolamento social, e maiores problemas na escola (Stiles, 2004). Vários autores tentaram associar estes estilos relacionais com um estilo de vinculação precoce, com as figuras parentais (Soares, 2007) 2 -As relações de amizade têm características diferentes, correspondem a necessidades diferentes e realizam funções diferentes em diferentes idades. ...
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During the past thirty years the academic community has been writing a lot about adolescents, their problems and their relationship with relevant actors and contexts of their lives. Since the end of the nineties, the social revolution associated with the “boom” of new technologies of information and communication brought a new challenge to parents and to health and education professionals, from whom openness, dialogue and a participative interaction was demanded during the seventies.
... For example, Hubbard and Coie (1994) found that emotion knowledge in children, a social norm which indicates the ability to understand the emotions of others, is predictive of peer acceptance. Stiles and Raney (2004) studied the relationship between communication and peer relations in young adolescents, and found that the ability to freely express one's thoughts, feelings, and opinions leads to higher peer acceptance. ...
The purpose of this study was to compare factors in the parent-child relationships of peer perceived popular adolescents to those of sociometrically popular adolescents. Factors included autonomy, relatedness, and idealization. Participants were 71 8th grade adolescents. Results showed similarities in parent-child relationships between perceived popular and sociometrically popular adolescents for autonomy, relatedness, and idealization. Results suggest that future research should explore other factors, such as affection from mother and father and levels of psychological control behavior to differentiate perceived popularity from sociometrically popular adolescents.
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Abstract· Personal space boundaries are conceptualized as parts of invisable, dynamic lines of demarcation separating concentnc areas of personal space from each other and from the external environment. Boundaries vary in permeability and flexibility as they filter incoming and outgomg stimuli. They are essential in privacy/intimacy regulation, that is, the degree of personal access one allows to others.. The purpose of this paper is to report the development and evaluation of the self report paper and pencil instrument, the Personal Space Boundary Questionnaire (PSBQ). The items for: this 40-item instrument were generated from findings of an ethnography study. Following validation of face and content validity, a psychometric study was conducted on a convenience sample of 416 regtstered nurses, Law enforcement officers, nursing students and non-nursing students from six agencies in a mic-sized southwestern city. Cronbachs alpha of the four sub-scales was as follows: outgoing permeability: .84; incoming permeability: .75; outgoing flexibility: .96, and incoming flexibility: .82. Construct validity was tested using three methods: known groups technique, convergent/discriminant validity, and confirmatory multi-sample factorial variance. For the known groups technique, there were significant differences between the openness of Registered Nurses and law enforcement officers in the hypothesized direction. In the tests of convergent/discriminant validity using five other scales measuring public and private self-consciousness, social anxiety, self-disclosure, and opening ability, five out of six hypotheses were supported. The confirmatory factor analysis using Structural Equation Modeling supported factorial invariance across the four occupational groups (X2 = 800.45, df - 762, CFI =1.00). All sample groups showed the same underlying factorial structure in both factor loadings and factor covariances implying structural stability and external validity. In research, the PSBQ could be used to test personal space boundary theories, determine correlates, antecedents, and consequences of various dispositional tendencies in boundaries. In clinical and educational settings, the PSBQ could be used to assess boundaries in various professions including nurses, nursing students and clients. Increased awareness of boundaries can lead to improvement of communication behaviors, health and autonomy. Key Words: personal space boundaries, co nfirmatory factor analysis, measurement, imtrument develo pmen t
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This review provides an overview of research on emotional expression and emotional experience during adolescence, defined as the period between the ages of 10 and 21 years. Methodological issues related to research on affect in adolescence are reviewed. This is followed by a review of research in two major content areas: (a) biological influences on emotional expression and experience; and (b) emotion in the family. The section on biological influences includes the hormone-affect relationship and the effects of pubertal status and timing. Emotion in the family includes research on attachment, acceptance and warmth, and research on emotional expression and experience. The review concludes with a brief summary of consistentfindings and suggestionsforfuture research.
In this book, the authors describe the development of Aggressive Replacement Training (ART), a behavioral, cognitive, and emotional intervention for aggressive youth. The authors begin by orienting the reader to the problem of aggression and attempt to place ART in the context of this real and present problem. They continue with descriptions of each component of ART: Skillstreaming (behavioral component), Anger Control Training (emotion-targeted component), and Moral Reasoning Training (cognitive component). The authors describe the background and rationale for the component's use, discuss particular implementation concerns, and present step-by-step training procedures to ensure effective group sessions in that area. Areas critical to program success are addressed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Presents a revised version of the class play (RCP) method of peer assessment for children, which was designed to improve the assessment of social competence as well as the psychometric properties of the class play method. The RCP consists of 30 roles, 15 positive and 15 negative, that 612 3rd–6th graders were told to assign to their classmates according to which classmate would play the role best. Ss were also rated by their teachers on the Devereux Elementary School Behavior Rating Scale and were administered the Peabody Individual Achievement Test, the Vocabulary and Block Design subtests of the WISC—R, and the Duncan Socioeconomic Index. Three RCP scores were derived based on factor analysis that revealed 3 dimensions: Sociability-Leadership, Aggressive-Disruptive, and Sensitive-Isolated. Data are presented relating the 3 scores, which proved to be reliable and stable at intervals of 6 and 17 mo, to SES, IQ, achievement, and teacher ratings. Positive reputation was associated with other aspects of social and intellectual competence, whereas isolated reputation was linked to difficulties at school. Multiple regression analyses suggested that a pattern of low-positive, high aggressive-disruptive, and high-isolated peer reputation is the least competent. The advantages of multidimensional scoring and analysis of peer reputation are demonstrated by the results. (37 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Presents a comprehensive overview of the historical context, major theories, research, and treatment of childhood psychopathology, emphasizing the need to view it as separate and distinct from adult psychopathology. Treatment approaches and research on their effectiveness are presented, along with the theories and descriptions of each type of disorder. (66 p ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)