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Almquist says while they don't have data about exactly why, the social interaction of children at this age is significant because of the primacy of school in their lives. "The middle school period is a time of changes and stress in the preadolescent child, which may have important bearings for future development and life chances," she says. "Our working hypothesis is that the status position in the school class affects the child's expectations, ambitions, choices and behaviors. This influences the child's self-esteem and confidence, leaving a mark on her or his identity."

But this study was based on surveys conducted more than 40 years ago. Does how much a student is respected and liked still matter to a generation plugged into Facebook and MySpace? Almquist says school is still one of the most important places in a child's life. "More work can be done to reduce the negative effects of low status in the school class," she says. "Practitioners should be given the opportunity to increase respect, cooperation and support between all classmates in a school class."

Did your middle school experience shape the rest of your life? Share your story in the comments section below.


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