Effects of ethnic group, sex and adjustment on interpersonal spacing



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In an effort to further explore the factors which influence man's use of interpersonal space, this study was designed to investigate patterns of distancing and arrangement produced by young children in a doll placement technique. Selected factors of principle interest were ethnic group, sex and personal adjustment. Anglo, Black and Mexican children between the ages of three and six placed human figures in four settings, for which measures of linear distance and grouping schemata were recorded. An analysis of variance revealed that the ethnic groups differed significantly on the basis of social class. Therefore, a multiple regression analysis was conducted to examine the effects on placement schemata by ethnic group, sex and adjustment, with age and social class included as covariates. The analysis revealed that distancing and grouping of human figures was based primarily on adjustment and age, rather than ethnic group or sex. The findings indicated that closer spacing and more directly-oriented grouping of human figures were produced by children rated high in self-adjustment. Age exerted the effect of more distant spacing and less connected grouping by older children. A secondary focus of the study concerned the thematic content generated for each placement setting. To investigate this, story interactions between the human figures were classified into three broad groups of behaviors, representing emotional distance, with implication of movement toward, away or against another person. Significant relationships emerged for several of the independent variables. A trend existed for Mexican children to express more positive, moving toward behaviors than Anglos or Blacks. Sex differences in thematic material revealed that girls expressed more dominance and less hostility than boys. Older subjects produced more positive, pro-social behavior and more favorable outcomes than younger children. Finally, children rated as socially well-adjusted generated more moving toward interactions than children with low social adjustment. The results of the study corroborate findings that personal adjustment is a primary organizer of an individual's approach to social interactions. This indicates that children with poor personal adjustment tend to feel separated and distant from other people, and see themselves as making fewer attempts at pro-social behavior than well- adjusted children. Understanding the development and maintenance of this sense of distance in young children seems important in planning effective treatment for serious adjustment problems. Additionally, there is suggestion that ethnic group membership influences emotional distance and quality of behavior attributed to others. The findings imply that future research concerning racial attitudes and emotional adjustment in young children need examine the interaction of personal adjustment and ethnic group in relation to interpersonal space.



Personal space, Interpersonal relations, Child psychology