Introduction to Sociometry

Dr. V.K. Maheshwari, Former Principal

K.L.D.A.V(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

Sociometry is “a method for, describing, discovering and evaluating social status, structure, and development through measuring the extent of acceptance or rejection between individuals in groups.” Franz defines sociometry as “a method used for the discovery and manipulation of social configurations by measuring the attractions and repulsions between individuals in a group.” It is a means for studying the choice, communication and interaction patterns of individuals in a group. It is concerned with attractions and repulsions between individuals in a group. In this method, a person is asked to choose one or more persons according to specified criteria, in order to find out the person or persons with whom he will like to associate.

The term sociometry relates to its Latin etymology, socius meaning companion, and metrum meaning measure.    As these roots imply, sociometry is a way of measuring the degree of relatedness among people.  Measurement of relatedness can be useful not only in the assessment of behavior within groups, but also for interventions to bring about positive change and for determining the extent of change.

J.L. Moreno was a psychiatrist born in 1889 in Romania.  He is credited with the development of group therapy, sociodrama and psychodrama.  One of his basic contributions is sociometry. Sociometry is the measurement of social choice, meaning the decisions, both conscious and unconscious, that are made regarding inter-personal affiliation. These measurement tools can be used to facilitate change.    At its most basic level, sociometry addresses the various aspects of human connection.  We are constantly making choices about with whom we choose to affiliate. Sociometry is a method that can be used to concretize and explore these choices.

In developing sociometry, Moreno sought to create a scientific methodology and set of intervention tools that could be used to study and change the basic human feelings such as acceptance and rejection, particularly as applicable to the group process.  Also, to study and where appropriate, intervene with the ways in which groups organize using various sociometric measures such as pairs, clusters, triangles, cleavages and other group formations.  This includes an assessment of those to whom we are drawn and those by whom we feel repelled.  Morenoo wanted to create a method to explore this.

Jacob Levy Moreno coined the term sociometry and conducted the first long-range sociometric study from 1932-38 at the New York State Training School for Girls in Hudson, New York. Jacob Moreno defined sociometry as “the inquiry into the evolution and organization of groups and the position of individuals within them.” He goes on to write “As the …science of group organization -it attacks the problem not from the outer structure of the group, the group surface, but from the inner structure.”Sociometric explorations reveal the hidden structures that give a group its form: the alliances, the subgroups, the hidden beliefs, the forbidden agenda’s, the ideological agreements, and the ‘stars’ of the show

Sociometry is the study of human connectedness. Moreno viewed society as composed of units made up of each individual and the essential persons in his or her life. Moreno called this smallest unit of measurement the social atom, comprised of all the significant figures, real or fantasized, and past and present.

Sociometry is based on the fact that people make choices in interpersonal relationships. Whenever people gather, they make choices–where to sit or stand; choices about who is perceived as friendly and who not, who is central to the group, who is rejected, who is isolated.  As Moreno says, “Choices are fundamental facts in all ongoing human relations, choices of people and choices of things.  It is immaterial whether the motivations are known to the chooser or not; it is immaterial whether [the choices] are inarticulate or highly expressive, whether rational or irrational.  They do not require any special justification as long as they are spontaneous and true to the self of the chooser.  They are facts of the first existential order.”

Sociometry means ‘companion measure’. Moreno developed it as a measure, a new systematic effort He wanted to create a society where all humans achieve their potential to love, to share and face their truth. By making choices overt and active, he hoped individuals would be more spontaneous, authentic and organisations and group structures would become fresh clear and lively.Sociometry enables us to know about the  interpersonal choices, attractions and rejections, and their effects. Sociometry has methods for displaying interpersonal choices, attractions and rejections and assists in exploring and improving the dynamics of relationship

Purpose of Sociometry -

Moren developed sociometry within the new sciences, although its ultimate purpose is transcendence and not science. ‘By making choices based on criteria, overt and energetic, Moreno hoped that individuals would be more spontaneous, and organizations and groups structures would become fresh, clear and lively’.

A useful working definition of sociometry is that it is a methodology for tracking the energy vectors of interpersonal relationships in a group.   It shows the patterns of how individuals associate with each other when acting as a group toward a specified end or goal.

Moreno himself defined sociometry as “the mathematical study of psychological properties of populations, the experimental technique of and the results obtained by application of quantitative methods” .

“Sociometry is a way of measuring the degree of relatedness among people. Measurement of relatedness can be useful not only in the assessment of behavior within groups, but also for interventions to bring about positive change and for determining the extent of change” .Sociometry is based on the fact that people make choices in interpersonal relationships. Whenever people gather, they make choices–where to sit or stand; choices about who is perceived as friendly and who not, who is central to the group, who is rejected, who is isolated.  As Moreno says, “Choices are fundamental facts in all ongoing human relations, choices of people and choices of things.  It is immaterial whether the motivations are known to the chooser or not; it is immaterial whether [the choices] are inarticulate or highly expressive, whether rational or irrational.  They do not require any special justification as long as they are spontaneous and true to the self of the chooser.  They are facts of the first existential order.” .

The purpose of sociometry is to facilitate group task effectiveness and satisfaction of participants by bringing about greater degrees of mutuality amongst people and greater authenticity in relationships.

Sociometry enables us to intervene in the organization systems with both formal and informal research data, and to identify with those involved intervention to release the creativity, leadership and innovation that resides within the informal networks, giving greater satisfaction to group members, and better results.

For sociometric interventions to be successful, participants are asked to account for their choices they make in their interactions, to better understand motivation for choice and the underlying feelings of attraction and repulsion (choosing and not choosing). Because these choices can be made visible, they are measurable and observable enabling group members to recognise the structures their combined choice making creates. Individuals and group members can then evaluate it and make any changes they wish.

Naturally revealing and hearing personal motivations and reasons for choices or not choosing is uncomfortable for some. Mostly this is offset by the value of change, and refreshing of relationships. Many people are relieved to hear the reasons for being chosen, or especially, not chosen, which they may have imagined previously. When these processes are facilitated respectfully, group members gain a lot of satisfaction with the shared information, and creativity and spontaneity is released.

The Underlying Philosophy

Moreno’s sociometric principles and approach are set forth in the editions of Who Shall Survive? Foundations of Sociometry, Group Psychotherapy and Sociodrama (1934, 1953, 1978). He states that he “suffered” from an idee fixe that each person inherits a primordial nature which is immortal and is sacred. And, it is from this nature that rises the capacity for creativity, a creativity which must be directed toward preserving life, that all may survive. To organize a universe of varied cultures, beliefs, and ways of interacting for this supreme task requires a system of sufficient complexity to investigate existing interrelating, and sufficient heart to motivate persons to value one another, actively.,

Sociometric methods result in heightened consciousness; perceptions are identified, corrected and eventually sharpened. Group members may then make informed choices with an awareness of collective choice making and the role his or her choices has on the group as a whole.

According to Tian Dayton, a trainer educator and practitioner of psychodrama, “feeling chosen, unchosen, rejected, invisible, isolated or having star status are issues that emerge naturally in groups and throughout sociometric investigation.  As such, sociometry offers a way to study groups in their concrete form.”

Sociometry is useful when looking at and measuring the choices made by the group as well as by the individual. When looking at sociometry, one can view it from the perspective of the group or the individual.  “When using sociometry in the group, there are four basic positions that individuals occupy:

  • Positive star,
  • Rejection star,
  • Isolate
  • Star of incongruity.

All of these positions have benefits and liabilities. Individuals who are highly selected, that is, who receive the most choices, are called “sociometric stars.”  Because choices can be either positive or negative so can the sociometric title, a positive sociometric star logically receives the most positive choices, while the sociometric rejection star is the individual receiving the greatest number of negative choices.

Branches of sociometry

Sociometry has two main branches:

Research sociometry- Research sociometry is action research with groups exploring the socio-emotional networks of relationships using specified criteria e.g. who in this group do you want to sit beside you at work? Who in the group do you go to for advice on a work problem? Who in the group do you see providing satisfying leadership in the pending project? Sometimes called network explorations, research sociometry is concerned with relational patterns in small (individual and small group) and larger populations, such as organizations and neighborhoods.

Applied sociometry – Applied sociometrists utilize a range of methods to assist people and groups review, expand and develop their existing psycho-social networks of relationships. Both fields of sociometry exist to produce through their application, greater spontaneity and creativity of both individuals and groups.

Applications of Sociometry

Sociometric methods have been applied in:

  • Business and industry, particularly in organization development
  • Children’s camps
  • Congregation revitalization
  • Counselling psychotherapy patients
  • Education, in classrooms and the training of teachers
  • Family therapy
  • Military services
  • Political campaigns
  • Town planning and community building

Basis of Sociometric Methods

Group Building

Sociometry also includes a large number of exercises and activities designed to enhance belonging, cooperation, cohesion, openness and access to roles. Every structured warm up activity is a sociometric event. Each time a leader asks group members to pick a partner, a sociometric event is taking place. The study of sociometry gives attention to the design and underlying principles of those activities.

The Social Atom

The student of sociometry becomes both participant and observer of his/her own life, exploring on paper and in action that nucleus of persons to whom he/she is connected. What is observed and measured is the nearness and distance which exists (or is desired) and accounting for inclusion in or exclusion from one’s circle. The group explored may be a public group or a private circle of friends.

The Sociometric Test

A group explores the collective impact of their choices upon one another and upon the whole. A criterion on which to base choices is selected, and group members identify on paper or in action the range of choices (to choose, to not choose, to remain neutral) and the degree of positive and negative feeling underlying their choices. At times, group members may make perceptual guesses about the choices others may have made for him or her. Following disclosure in pairs, the results are depicted in a sociogram. which is drawn or enacted in ways to highlight several factors: nearness and distance, level of choice (highly overchosen to highly underchosen), level of reciprocity, existence of subgroups. The group then discusses the results and ways to enhance its construction in order to sustain its purposes and goals.

The Role Diagram

Pairs, triads and small groups may investigate their responses to one another by identifying the roles in which they interact and the feeling responses they have toward one another in the role. A list of role names is charted and a system of notation employed for use in identifying feelings, or changes in feelings.

The Encounter

Essential to the sociometrist is the capacity to facilitate exploration of the results of the investigations, principally through the reciprocal process of role reversal. Persons engaged in sociometric procedures will be unable to accurately reveal to themselves or another their true choices if they are unable to rely upon skilled treatment or differences as they arise. The sociometrist facilitates conflicts, impasses, and the meeting of persons who are beginning to know one another.

Branches of Sociometry

Within sociology, sociometry has two main branches:

1- Research sociometry,

. Research sociometry is action research with groups exploring the socio-emotional networks of relationships using specified criteria e.g. Who in this group do you want to sit beside you at work? Who in the group do you go to for advice on a work problem? Who in the group do you see providing satisfying leadership in the pending project? Sometimes called network explorations, research sociometry is concerned with relational patterns in small (individual and small group) and larger populations, such as organizations and neighborhoods.

2- Applied sociometry

Applied sociometrists utilize a range of methods to assist people and groups review, expand and develop their existing psycho-social networks of relationships. Both fields of sociometry exist to produce through their application, greater spontaneity and creativity of both individuals and groups.

Concept of Sociogram

Sociometry is a theoretical and methodological approach which seeks to analyze relations between individuals in small group situations. Sociometry is a form of network analysis. Moreno introduced the idea of a sociogram, which is a diagram representing the relationships between individuals.

The sociogram Is a graphic representation which serves to reveal and analyse the relationships of a person with their family or social circle, or to visualise the relationships within the family or of certain members of the family with their external environment such as health and education services, leisure time activities, work, friends or place in the extended family.

One of Moreno’s innovations in sociometry was the development of the sociogram, a systematic method for graphically representing individuals as points/nodes and the relationships between them as lines/arcs. Moreno, who wrote extensively of his thinking, applications and findings, also founded a journal entitled Sociometry.

Understanding the Sociogram

An ecomap (or, in this case, a community sociogram), is a structural diagram of important relationships with or between people, groups, and organizations. Social workers use the sociogram to show the coalition of resources that seem likely to affect clients’ efforts to meet goals. Below is a sociogram for a town . The interaction matrix is a textual description of these data.

Objectives  of Sociogram

This sociological approach is used in several ways and in pursuing various objectives. The first is to demonstrate the group dynamic surrounding the individual observed, whether it be their immediate family, or others in their surroundings such as their belonging group, their reference group, their functional group or their affinity group.

A human being is born within a family, with parents who protect him, a family circle and a specific environment. This is known as the belonging group, with which, in one way or another, the person maintains a lifelong tie.

A human group, whatever its nature, always presents a particular character, with specific values, distinct cultural tastes, a dynamic and an ideology which make it unique. The persons, groups or organisations which serve as role models for the person’s moral, religious or political conduct is the reference group.

The sociogram can target either one or the other of these groups. The functional group has as its primary objective a professional function, such as worker, nurse, teacher, student or other;whereas an affinity group, is concerned with the persons who associate by choice.

Another objective of the sociogram is to reveal in a concrete and specific manner the type of relationship which a person has with each family member and with the different groups to which they belong. This enables us to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their support network, which is very important for their care, or if we want to know what the relationship is between a worker and his supervisor or work colleagues.

One of Moreno’s innovations in sociometry was the development of the sociogram, a systematic method for graphically representing individuals as points/nodes and the relationships between them as lines/arcs. Moreno, who wrote extensively of his thinking, applications and findings, also founded a journal entitled Sociometry.

A sociogram is a charting of the inter-relationships within a group. Its purpose is to discover group structure: i.e., the basic “network” of friendship patterns and sub-group organization. The relations of any one child to the group as a whole are another type of information which can be derived from a sociogram. A sociogram’s value to a teacher is in its potential for developing greater understanding of group behavior so that he/she may operate more wisely in group management and curriculum development.

A Sociogram is an important tool for teachers. The sociogram is the chart used to actually apply sociometry in the classroom. It charts the interrelationships within a group. Its purpose is to discover group structures and the relation of any one person to the group as a whole. Its value to the teacher is in its potentiality for developing greater understanding of group behaviour so that he may operate more wisely in group management and curriculum . This shows the positive nature of sociometry and the use of it is important for understanding the relationships within classrooms. Once this relationship is understood by the teacher, group work can be better facilitated for greater learning to occur.

Applications to the Classroom

When working with students who tend to socially withdraw or isolate themselves, a sociometric activity can be conducted with the class to determine the peer(s) who would most like to interact with the targeted students. These results can then be used when assigning groups and arranging seating . The use of sociometry has since expanded into other fields such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, and is now being used for education and classroom purposes. The use of sociometry in the classroom is to find the best relationships between students and to see how children see themselves within the social construct of education.

”Every teacher knows that the group of children with which he works is more that an aggregation of individuals. He knows that the group has form and structure; that there are patterns of sub-groups, cliques, and friendships. Some individuals are more accepted by the group then others. Some are more rejected. Theses factors play an important role in determining how the group will react to learning situations and to various types of group management employed by the teacher” (5).

This quote is a very nice summary of the necessity of sociometry in the classroom. It also highlights what sociometrists are trying to accomplish by studying groups in social settings. They are trying to see how people get along in groups and what this means in the context of learning and developing within the classroom.

For group work, sociometry can be a powerful tool for reducing conflict and improving communication because it allows the group to see itself objectively and to analyze its own dynamics. It is also a powerful tool for assessing dynamics and development in groups devoted to therapy or training .

Sociometric criteria  for making choice-

Choices are always made on some basis or criterion.  The criterion may be subjective, such as an intuitive feeling of liking or disliking a person on first impression.  The criterion may be more objective and conscious, such as knowing that a person does or does not have certain skills needed for the group task.

Critarion Selection

The selection of the appropriate criterion makes or breaks the sociometric intervention.   As in all data-collection in the social sciences, the answers you get depend on the questions you ask.  Any question will elicit information but unless the right question is asked, the information may be confusing or distracting or irrelevant to the intervention’s objective.

A good criterion should present a meaningful choice to the person in as simple a format as possible.  Other criteria are: the Rule of adequate motivation: “Every participant should feel about the experiment that it is in his (or her) own cause . . . that it is an opportunity for him (or her) to become an active agent in matters concerning his (or her) life situation.” and the Rule of “gradual” inclusion of all extraneous criteria. Moreno speaks here of “the slow dialectic process of the sociometric experiment

The criterion must be like a surgeon’s knife: most effective when it cleanly isolates the material of interest.  In responding to the question, each person will choose based on an individual interpretation of the criterion.  These interpretations, or sub-criteria, for this particular question could include: do I want a person who works hard, who is a power-broker, who is amiable, a minority, etc.  A clear statement of the criterion will tend to reduce the number of interpretations and will therefore increase the reliability of the data.

Princeples of Critarion Selection

The criterion should be as simply stated and as straightforward as possible.

The respondents should have some actual experience in reference to the criterion, whether ex post facto or present (in Moreno’s language, they are still “warmed up” to them) otherwise the questions will not arouse any significant response.

The criterion should be specific rather than general or vague.  Vaguely defined criteria evoke vague responses.

When possible, the criterion should be actual rather than hypothetical.

A criterion is more powerful if it is one that has a potential for being acted upon.  For example, for incoming college freshmen the question “Whom would you choose as a roommate for the year?” has more potential of being acted upon than the question “Whom do you trust?”

Moreno points out that the ideal criterion is one that helps further the life-goal of the subject.  “If the test procedure is identical with a life-goal of the subject he can never feel himself to have been victimized or abused.  Yet the same series of acts performed of the subject’s own volition may be a ‘test’ in the mind of the tester”  (Moreno, p. 105).  Helping a college freshman select an appropriate roommate is an example of a sociometric test that is in accord with the life-goal of the subject.

“It is easy to gain the cooperation of the people tested as soon as they come to think of the test as an instrument to bring their wills to a wider realization, that it is not only an instrument for exploring the status of a population, but primarily an instrument to bring the population to a collective self-expression in respect to the fundamental activities in which it is or is about to be involved.” (Moreno, 1953, pp. 680-681).

As a general rule questions should be future oriented, imply how the results are to be used, and specify the boundaries of the group (Hale, 1985).  And last, but not least, the criteria should be designed to keep the level of risk for the group appropriate to the group’s cohesion and stage of development.

Sociometric assessment techniques/ Methods

There are a variety of what can be referred to as classic sociometric assessment techniques derived from the work of the 1930s, including peer nomination, peer rankings, and sociometric rankings. In the peer nomination technique, children in a social group or school classroom anonymously identify social preferences for their classmates. For example, children may be asked to provide a list of the three classmates with whom they would most like to play and the three with whom they would least like to play. Another peer nomination technique (see Figure 1) is to provide a list of the names of the children in a classroom along with social acceptance items (e.g., “Who do you like to play with?” “Who is most likely to be alone during recess?” “Who gets into trouble the most?”). The children are asked to identify perhaps one to three classmates who they perceive best fit the item description.

An alternative peer nomination method for early readers is to use photographs with an adult reading the items aloud in either an individual or classroom setting while the children provide a nomination for a child, perhaps by assigning a smiling or frowning face to the photograph that applies. Another variation of the peer nomination method is the class play. In this procedure children cast their peers in positive and negative roles in an imaginary play. The class play has the potential advantage of being more acceptable in school settings because the positive and negative role assignments may be perceived as a more discreet method for identifying children’s social standing. For each of the methods described, the nominations may be summed for each child and the results are used to identify those children who are perceived as most socially positive or negative by their peers.

Two other sociometric techniques can be described as peer ratings and sociometric rankings. Peer ratings are conducted by providing a list of children’s names in the social group or classroom along with a rating for social acceptance items such as “The most fun to play with,”.“The least fun to play with,” and “Has the most friends.” The rating methods that are used may vary, typically ranging from three- to five-point Likert-type responses (e.g., Agree, Neutral, Disagree). In contrast to peer nominations and ratings, sociometric rankings are completed by an adult, most often the classroom teacher who has had the opportunity to observe the children in multiple social settings such as the classroom, playground, and cafeteria. In this method, teachers rank the children on social dimensions similar to those provided by peers.

Each of these sociometric assessment methods has strengths and limitations. Researchers have found that each method appears to be valid for identifying children’s social standing. Peer ratings and adult rankings appear to provide the most reliable or stable measurements and, as such, may be more useful than the peer nomination method. A major issue that arises with each of these methods is the concept of social validity, which refers to the acceptance, usefulness, and potential harm of an assessment procedure. The applications of sociometric assessment methods have resulted in controversy and ethical concerns regarding their use. These concerns center on the use of negative peer nominations and the possibility that children will compare responses which may result in negative social and emotional consequences for children who are not positively perceived by their peers. These concerns contributed to the decline in the acceptance and use of sociometric assessment methods, particularly in school settings. However, researchers have found no strong evidence that negative consequences occur for either the children who are rating or those being rated; therefore, sociometric assessment continues to be used as a research tool for understanding children’s social relationships.

Related Assesment Methods

Although the term sociometrics has been most often applied to the assessment methods described above, in a broader context the term can be applied to related assessment measures of social functioning. These methods tend to focus on children’s social competencies and skills rather than measuring only social standing or peer acceptance. Because these methods are more often used in practical applications in school settings, they are briefly described here.

Social Behavior Rating Scales. Social behavior rating scales represent one of the most frequently used measures of social competence. These rating scales are designed for gathering data on the frequency of occurrence of specific skills or behaviors. Some rating scales focus on social problem behaviors and others are designed specifically to assess children’s social skills. For example, a social skills rating scale may contain items such as “Appropriately invites friends to play” or “Controls temper in conflicts with adults” which are rated on a frequency scale (e.g., Never, Sometimes, Always). Depending on the measure, ratings can be gathered from parents or parent surrogates, teachers, and when appropriate from the children themselves. Rating scales in essence provide summary observations of a child’s social behavior. Gathering data from these multiple sources can facilitate understanding different perspectives regarding a child’s social skills in home and school settings. Well designed social skills rating scales have been found to be reliable and valid measures.

Observation Methods. Observation methods are used to gather information about a child’s social skills in natural settings, such as in the classroom, in the cafeteria, and on the playground. Observation methods can be highly structured wherein defined behaviors are measured for frequency of occurrence or measured for occurrence during specified time periods or intervals. For example, a child’s play behavior may be observed during recess by a school psychologist who records every 30 seconds whether the child was playing alone or with others. Other observation methods are less structured and rely on a narrative approach for describing a child’s social interactions.

Observation methods often include focus on the environmental variables that may increase or decrease a child’s social skills, such as the reactions of peers and adults to a child’s attempts at initiating conversation. Observations also can be conducted in what is known as analogue assessment, which involves having a child role-play social scenarios and observing the child’s performance. Whereas rating scales provide summary measures that rely on some level of recall, observations have the advantage of directly sampling a child’s behavior in actual social contexts or settings, thereby increasing the validity of the assessment.

The limitations of observations are that multiple observers are required to ensure reliable assessment (interobserver agreement) and observations are more time intensive. Thus in applied settings they may provide limited information due to time constraints.

Interview Methods. Interview methods are used to gather information about a child’s social skill strengths and weaknesses, and to aid in the identification of specific skill deficits for intervention. Interviews can be used separately with children, parents or parent surrogates, and teachers, or conjointly with multiple sources. Interviews can be structured, with a focus on the identification and treatment of specific social skills, or interviews can be less structured, with a greater focus on feelings and perceptions about a child’s social skills. As with rating scales, interview data can be viewed as summary recall information which should be validated with direct observation.

The assessment methods described often are combined in a comprehensive social skills assessment that may include rating scales, observations, and interviews. Using multiple methods of assessment is considered best practice because the use of more than one assessment method increases the likelihood that the behaviors which are targeted for classification or intervention are valid, and that specific social skills strengths and deficits are clearly defined. It is also important to use multiple assessment methods to monitor a child’s progress and to assess the effectiveness of an intervention.

Implication of Sociomatric  Assessment  for Educational Practices

In educational practice, sociometric assessment most often is used to determine eligibility for special education and for intervention for adaptive behaviors or socio-emotional problems. Children identified with special education needs, such as learning problems, mental retardation, attention deficit disorders, and autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger’s syndrome, may benefit from assessment and intervention toward enhancing their social skills. In the general education population, children may benefit who are shy, rejected, or engage in bullying or aggressive behaviors or who simply have limited social skills. Most of the classic sociometric assessment methods are not used in educational practice, partly due to issues with acceptability. Furthermore, although these methods have been found to be useful in research, they may not be viewed as being useful in school settings because they do not lead to specific classification for special education nor do they provide specific data that can directly assist in the intervention process. Related sociometric assessment measures such as rating scales often are used because these methods provide more specific information that can be linked to classification and intervention.

One classic sociometric assessment method that has been shown to be effective in educational practice is sociometric rankings. In this procedure teachers rank the children in their classroom who the teacher views as having social behavior problems, sometimes in relation to internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors. (Internalizing behaviors refer to problems such as depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal; externalizing behaviors refer to problems such as aggression, conduct problems, and hyperactivity.) The use of teacher rankings serves as an initial screening device for identifying children who may need additional assessment and intervention. Once identified, the children are screened further with a rating scale or related method to determine the extent of their social difficulties. Those children who are found to have problems are then referred for more assessment intended to specify their problems and provide an intervention, such as social skills training. Researchers have found this method of assessment, known as a multiple gating procedure, to be acceptable and effective in applied settings.

Assessing and understanding children’s and adolescents’ peer relations is important in educational settings for several reasons. From a developmental standpoint, it is important to understand how children develop social skills as they mature. Researchers have found that sociometric assessment can be useful in identifying children’s social standing and predicting positive or negative social outcomes for children. The establishment of friendships and positive social interactions are important for children’s social development and for interacting in the social world, including the school setting. Children with poor peer and adult relationships often experience negative social and emotional consequences that can continue throughout adulthood. These negative consequences can include lower academic achievement, higher rates of school dropout, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor self-concept, social withdrawal, fewer positive employment opportunities, and anti-social behaviors such as aggression and criminality. Researchers have estimated that at least 10%, or one in ten children experience consistent negative peer relationships. Therefore, a large number of children with inadequate social relationships may be at-risk for developing behavioral and emotional difficulties. Children with poor or limited social skills also are at risk for becoming victims of bullying and other aggressive behaviors. Children with disabilities often have social skills deficits and negative peer perceptions that put them at heightened risk.

Given these potentially negative outcomes, social skills assessment is important in educational settings. In research, the identification of the development of social standing and social skills can facilitate understanding the behaviors of socially successful and unsuccessful children. In research settings, both classic sociometric assessment and social skills assessment methods are used to achieve better understanding of social types and behaviors. These behaviors can in turn be used to understand children’s and adolescents’ social skill deficits and can aid in the design and study of social skills assessments and interventions.

Sociometry Test-An Example-The basic technique in sociometry is the “sociometric test.” This is a test under which each member of a group is asked to choose from all other members those with whom he prefers to associate in a specific situation. The situation must be a real one to the group under study, e.g., ‘group study’, ‘play’, ‘class room seating’ for students of a public school.

The typical process for a sociometric intervention follows these basic steps:

(1) Identify the group to be studied

(2) Develop the criterion,

(3) Establish rapport / warm-up,

(4) Gather sociometric data,

(5) Analyze and interpret data,

(6) Feed back data, either: (a) to individuals, or (b) in a group setting,

(7) Develop and implement action plans,

A specific number of choices, say two or three to be allowed is determined with reference to the size of the group, and different levels of preferences are designated for each choice.

Suppose we desire to find out the likings and disliking of persons in a work group consisting of 8 persons. Each person is asked to select 3 persons in order or preference with whom he will like to work on a group assignment. The levels of choices are designated as: the first choice by the’ number 1, the second by 2, and the third by 3

For example, you are with a group of 10 kids. Everyone is asked to choose one person to sit next to them. Show your choice by placing your right hand on the shoulder of the person you choose.  Move about the room as you need to make your choice.  There are only two requirements: (1) you may choose only one person and (2) you must choose someone.”  Typically you and the kids will make their choices after only a little hesitation.

This exercise may be repeated several times in the period of just a few minutes using different criteria each time. The exercise graphically illustrates not only the social reality of choice-making, but also the fact that different criteria evoke different patterns of choices. ”

Regardless of the criterion, the person who receives the most hands on his or her shoulder is what is known as the sociometric star for that specific criterion. Other sociometric relationships which may be observed are mutuals , where two people choose each other; chains, where person A chooses person B who chooses person C who chooses person D and so on; and gaps or cleavages when clusters of people have chosen each other but no one in any cluster has chosen anyone in any other cluster.

This “hands-on” exercise can be very helpful for teaching a group about sociometry and about the reality of the informal organization.  While the group is in each pattern, the consultant can ask the group to describe the pattern, how the pattern reflects “real life”, and what the group would need to do to close up any cleavages. Participants learn very quickly and concretely about the informal organization underlying their formal organization.  As one participant said, “It shows how we really feel, but we don’t say it very often.”

Constructing a sociomatrix for a small group like this one is a simple task, but when the number of people in the group is more than about five or six, the clerical work and calculations become quite tedious and open to error.  With a large matrix, the identification of mutuals begins to resemble a migraine headache.  Fortunately there are computers.  Software exists to automate all the tedious calculations involved in creating a sociomatrix of up to 60 people. The software produces not only the sociomatrix itself but also several useful group and individual reports

Validity of Sociometry

Does sociometry really measure something useful?  Jane Mouton, Robert Blake and Benjamin Fruchter reviewed the early applications of sociometry and concluded that the number of sociometric choices do tend to predict such performance criteria as productivity, combat effectiveness, training ability, and leadership.  An inverse relationship also holds:  the number of sociometric choices received is negatively correlated with undesirable aspects of behavior such as accident-proneness,  and frequency of disciplinary charges” .  The more frequently you are chosen, the less likely you are to exhibit the undesirable behavior.

Limitations of sociometry

To quote Moreno: “there is a deep discrepancy between the official and the secret behavior of members”. Moreno advocates that before any “social program” can be proposed, the sociometrist has to “take into account the actual constitution of the group.”

Sociometry is rarely used in the classroom because it usually cannot be effectively reproduced by teachers in their classrooms. However, studies of aggression and school violence show how and why sociograms should be used .

There has been research conducted pointing out that there is a tendency to use esoteric terms which are intelligible only to the initiated and create barriers to communication .

Sociometric assessment can be defined as the measurement of interpersonal relationships in a social group. Sociomet-ric measurement or assessment methods provide information about an individual’s social competence and standing within a peer group. School-based sociometric assessment often focuses on a child’s relationships with regard to social popularity, peer acceptance, peer rejection, and reputation.

Some sociometric assessment methods derive information on social relationships by assessing children’s positive and negative social perceptions of one another, whereas other methods involve adult (teacher, parent) and self perceptions of children’s social competencies or standing. Sociometric assessment methods were introduced in the 1930s and advanced in the journal Sociometry. In the 1950s, several books were published on the topic and sociometric measurements often were part of research and school-based assessments of social relationships. The use of classic sociometric procedures declined in the following decades, due to the advancement of social behavior rating scales and ethical concerns regarding the use of peer nomination methods with children.




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