My November novel writing project includes several characters, including the main character, who are young teens attending middle school. One of the tools I’m using in my character outlines is sociometric status.
Sociometric status measures the degree to which a child is liked or disliked by his or her peers. Status is determined by nomination – in other words, through the eyes of other children (although some researchers obtain ratings from teachers rather than students). Status categories include Popular, Average, Neglected, Rejected and Controversial. Insofar as my novel’s setting is primarily in the school, having a understanding of how each character is perceived by their peers is useful.
Sociometric status is not without its controversies. Not all researchers agree on the utility of sociometric status. For my purposes (not related to research or intervention, but to fleshing out fictional characters), I find the distinctions helpful – especially with regards to the difference between neglect, rejection and controversy.
These are the differences: Neglected children are neither nominated as liked or disliked and often “fly under the radar” of their peers; Rejected children are actively disliked and can usually be identified by the things that they do which are seen by their peers as undesirable; Controversial children often receive both “like” and “dislike” nominations from their peers. They can sometimes be members of marginalized groups or may, in fact, be seen as a leader but not in the traditional sense.