What Do Sociologists Consider to be an "Average Child?"

Sociologists use the term "average" to describe a social norm.

group of children
Sociometrics studies the social status of children based on peer surveys.. Flickr/hepingting

"Average Children" -- a Sociometric Term

The term "average children" relates, not to academic performance, but to popularity. It is a specialized term used by researchers interested in sociometrics (the study of social status). Sociometric researchers explore the status of children by conducting surveys and assigning one of five labels:

In surveys are conducted among peers, children are asked to rate their peer group (usually their class) by responding to questions such as:

  • Who are your three best friends in this group? 
  • What three people in this group do you LEAST admire? 
  • What three people in this group would most enjoy going to a picnic?

What Does It Mean to Be Average?

Average children are the comparison group next to which all of the other sociometric statuses — neglected, rejected, popular and controversial — are compared. As a result, one can best understand the unique qualities of average children by learning about the characteristics of children in the other four categories.

Average children tend to fare well in school. They are neither considered to be leaders nor followers and do not stand out in terms of their achievements or behavior. They are somewhat liked by some peers and somewhat disliked by others. While their social skills and behaviors aren't quite as spectacular as those in the "popular" group, children with average scores are usually socially competent.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Being Average

Children who fall into the other sociometric categories may suffer from rejection or — on the flip side of the coin — from overly high expectations. For children who are average, these issues are not a concern. Most average children are able to be successful within their own spheres.

They may find it easy to make friends, manage the demands of school and social settings, and manage the increasing expectations of school and work without much difficulty.

On the other hand, children who are "average" are rarely leaders. Similarly, they are not likely to stand out as having particularly strong talents in areas such as public speaking, sports, or the arts. As a result, they may not have the opportunity or drive to overcome obstacles, advance in their areas of interest, or take on unexpected challenges.


Furman, Wyndol, McDunn, Christine, and Young, Brennan. The Role of Peer and Romantic Relationships in Adolescent Affective Development. In N. B. Allen & L. Sheeber (Eds.) Adolescent emotional development and the emergence of depressive disorders. 2008. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Wentzel, Kathryn R., & Asher, Steven R. The Academic Lives of Neglected, Rejected, Popular, and Controversial Children. Child Development. 1995. 66:754-763.

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