The CRESS research lab is led by Professor Robin Banerjee at the University of Sussex. We conduct investigations of children's social and emotional functioning, and work closely with practitioners and policymakers in the areas of education and mental health.
Peer relations and mental health - Dr Robin Banerjee
Robin Banerjee, Professor of Developmental Psychology
Core research focus: Social and emotional
development in the school years
What social and emotional skills underpin
successful peer relationships?
How can positive interpersonal relations and
mental health be promoted in the school
New applied research in the CRESS lab is using
simple online surveys to profile the social and
emotional functioning of schools, classes, and
This information is used to inform intervention
strategies to promote mental health, and to
evaluate change over time.
Sociogram of a class A diagram of children’s peer networks,
with arrows showing children’s
nominations of the peers with whom they
most like to play or spend free time
Sarah is classed as ‘popular’ – the
sociogram shows she received many
Most-Like nominations, and analysis also
revealed that she didn’t attract any Least-
Alex and Emily are classed as ‘peer
rejected’ – the sociogram shows they
haven’t received any Most-Like
nominations, and analysis also revealed
that they attracted a high number of
Peer rejection as an indicator of – and
risk factor for – psychopathology
• Differences in peer relations are systematically
related to behavioural, emotional, and social-
relational difficulties, such as:
– Conduct problems and oppositional-defiant
– Hyperactivity and attention-deficit disorders
– Anxiety and depressive symptoms
The behavioural reputation of
This graph shows a given child’s socio-
behavioural reputation within the peer
group. A score of 0 is the class average,
and the box shows the range from lowest
to highest within the class. The dot in
each box shows the relative position of the
given child within his/her class.
Here we have a peer-rejected child who
scores bottom of the class for Most-Like,
top of the class for Least-Like, and top of
the class for Disruptive Behaviour and
And here we have another peer-rejected
child who scores bottom of the class for
Most-Like, above average for Least-
Like, and top of the class for Shy.
The self-reported emotional
functioning of rejected children
This graph shows a given child’s self-report
of social and emotional experiences. Each
box shows the range from lowest to
highest within the class, with the line in
each box showing the class average. The
dot in each box shows the relative position
of the given child within his/her class.
Here we have a peer-rejected child with
very negative self-reported socio-
emotional experiences. He scored bottom
of the class for Positive Experiences of
social interaction, and scored highest in
the class for anger, depressive
symptoms, and negative emotions at both
school and home.
Use of online surveys in
Targeted Mental Health in Schools projects
(Bracknell Forest, Brighton & Hove, and Derby)
Here is another peer-rejected child
who presented in the first term of
the school year with very negative
self-reported social experiences, and
high levels of both anger and
depressive symptoms, with the
lowest self-worth scores in the class.
Staff at school worked with educational psychologists and primary
mental health workers to design and implement school-based
strategies for meeting the socio-emotional needs of classes and
individual pupils, based on the feedback from the online surveys.
By the end of the school year, the profile of negative social
experiences had been completely reversed for this child.
Depressive symptoms had substantially decreased, and self-worth
But feelings of anger were still prominent. School staff confirmed that
major improvements had been made, but that there was still more
work needed to support this young person…..!
Directions for further work
• Use of these school-based tools in relation to
specific clinical samples
• Incorporation of parental ratings
• Role of classroom and school climate in
moderating longitudinal trajectories
• Links with academic achievement and
from the CRESS lab
• Banerjee, R., Weare, K., & Farr, W. (in press). Working with ‘Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning’
(SEAL): Associations with school ethos, pupil social experiences, attendance, and attainment. British
Educational Research Journal.
• Leeves, S., & Banerjee, R. (in press). Childhood social anxiety and social support-seeking: Distinctive
links with perceived support from teachers. European Journal of Psychology of Education.
• Kouwenberg, M., Rieffe, C., & Banerjee, R. (2013). A balanced and short Best Friend Index for children
and young adolescents. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 10, 634-641.
• Luke, N., & Banerjee, R. (2013). Differentiated associations between childhood maltreatment
experiences and social understanding: A meta-analysis and systematic review. Developmental Review,
• Banerjee, R., Bennett, M., & Luke, N. (2012). Children's reasoning about self-presentation following
rule violations: The role of self-focused attention. Child Development, 83, 1805-1821.
• Caputi, M., Lecce, S., Pagnin, A., & Banerjee, R. (2012). Longitudinal effects of theory of mind on later
peer relations: The role of prosocial behaviour. Developmental Psychology, 48, 257-270.
• Ku, L., Dittmar, H., & Banerjee, R. (2012). Are materialistic teenagers less motivated to learn? Cross-
sectional and longitudinal evidence from UK and Hong Kong. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104,
• Luke, N., & Banerjee, R. (2012). Maltreated children's social understanding and empathy: A preliminary
exploration of foster carers' perspectives. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21, 237-246.
• Novin, S., Banerjee, R., & Rieffe, C. (2012). Bicultural adolescents’ anger regulation: In between two
cultures? Cognition and Emotion, 26, 577-586.
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