2011. Vol.2, No.6, 535-541
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/psych.2011.26083
Perceived Family and School Rejection and Adolescents’
Psychological States*
Marwan Dwairy
Oranim Academic College, Israel.
Received May 4th, 2011; revised July 11th, 2011; accepted August 21st, 2011.
This study deals with the perceived acceptance-rejection of male and female adolescents at home and at school
and their association with the psychological states experienced by them. A sample of 350 female and 220 male
10th grade students filled out two questionnaires: Dwairy’s Rejection Scale, measuring acceptance-rejection by
fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, male teachers, female teachers, male classmates and female classmates, and
the Psychological State Scale, measuring anxiety, depression, psychosomatic symptoms and conduct disorders.
The results show that all perceived acceptance-rejection circuits are associated with and merged in three major
factors of rejection: family, teachers, and classmates. All the factors were associated with psychological states
experienced by the adolescents with a cross-gender effect. Experienced psychological states of male adolescents
were associated with perceived acceptance-rejection circuits at home and at school, in particular when related to
female figures, while psychological states of female adolescents were associated with male and female figures at
home. The results highlight the need for a systemic approach in research.
Keywords: Acceptance, Rejection, Parenting, Psychological States, Adjustment
In the middle of the 20th century, in his humanistic theory,
Carl Rogers had emphasized the central role acceptance plays
in mental health (Rogers, 1951, 1961). He coined the term ‘un-
conditional positive regard’ as a vital component of education
and counseling, so as to indicate the need of the child to be
accepted unconditionally by her family and others, and of the
client to be accepted by the counselor. According to Rogers,
psychological disorders are rooted in rejection. Ronald Rohner
in his acceptance-rejection theory followed in his footsteps and
provided empirical evidence of the association between paren-
tal acceptance-rejection and children’s psychological adjust-
ment. After hundreds of studies inspired by his theory he con-
“Children everywhere need a specific form of positive re-
sponseacceptance by parents and other attachment figures.
When this need is not met satisfactorily, children worldwide
regardless of variations in culture, gender, age, ethnicity, or
other defining conditionstend to describe themselves as hos-
tile and aggressive; dependent or defensively independent;
impaired in self-esteem and self-adequacy; emotionally unre-
sponsive; emotionally unstable; and to have a negative world-
view, among other responses” (Rohner, Khaleque, and Cour-
noyer, 2005, p. 1).
In the wake of robust evidence regarding the relationship
between parental rejection and psychological maladjustment of
children, an International Society for Interpersonal Acceptance
and Rejection was founded in 2006 at a congress dealing with
that issue, organized in Istanbul, Turkey. The society broadened
the scope of interest in the field and marshaled support to en-
courage research related to issues of interpersonal acceptance
and rejection, including but not limited to acceptance and rejec-
tion by parents, siblings, peers, teachers, spouses, and the entire
domain of interpersonal adult acceptance-rejection throughout
the lifespan (See volume 1, issue 1 of Interpersonal Acceptance,
March, 2007).
As for children and adolescents, the two major sources of re-
jection are the family and school. The significance of their im-
pact was recently studied in a special issue of Cross-Cultural
Research (Vol. 44, #3, 2010), dealing with “Teachers’ accep-
tance, parental acceptance, and the adjustment, achievement,
and behavior of school-going youth”. It became clear that pa-
rental and teachers’ acceptance was significantly correlated
with the psychological adjustment of both boys and girls
(Rohner, 2010; Tulviste, and Rohner, 2010). Some of the stud-
ies, reported in the special issue, found a cross-gender effect,
for example that fathers have a greater influence on the behav-
ior of their daughters than on that of their sons (Rohner, per-
sonal communication, August 13, 2010). In Estonia, only
mothers make a significant and independent contribution to
boys’ adjustment, while fathers have no such influence
(Tulviste & Rohner, 2010). It is still not clear why cross-gender
effects such as these sometimes occur, but are not evident in
other environments.
In addition to parents and teachers, classmates and siblings
play an important role in adolescents’ psychological adjustment.
In his book Ladd (2005) gathered research findings, indicating
that poor relations with classmates are one of the best predictors
of multiple forms of psychological, scholastic and interpersonal
dysfunctions in childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Chil-
dren rejected by their classmates tend to display more aggres-
sive behavior (Coie, and Kupersmidt, 1983), and shyness, so-
cial withdrawal, poor communication skills, hyperactivity
(Ladd, 2005), and absenteeism and dropping out of school
(Buhs, Ladd, & Herald, 2006). When peer rejection is more
persistent, the psychological impairment is more severe (Ladd,
As for siblings, they spend much time together (Walters,
1987), and often serve as confidants or role models to each
other (Pulakos, 1987). This relationship contributes a great deal
to the psychological development and adjustment of siblings
(Hetherington & Clingempeel, 1992; Rohner, Varan, Kober-
*This research was supported by the MOFET Institution (Research, Curricu-
lum & Program Development for Teacher Educators) and The Research
Authority, Oranim Academic College, Israel.
stein, and Özyavru, submitted), and provides a basis for the
understanding of emotions, management of anger, attitudes, and
other social skills (Brody, 2004). Sibling relationships involv-
ing negative feelings and conflicts may contribute to aggressive
behavior (Bank, Patterson, & Reid, 1996).
Acceptance-rejection by parents is highly correlated with that
of teachers (Rohner, 2010), and that of siblings (Rohner, Varan,
Koberstein, and Özyavru, submitted). Acceptance-rejection by
parents, siblings, teachers and classmates seems to be associ-
ated and they impact the child’s behavior. These circuits are
continuous, dynamic, multi-directional, and related to the qual-
ity and characteristics of each of the parties. Therefore, and
consistently with my systemic research approach (Dwairy, 2006,
2009a, 2009b), it is crucial to study these associations together.
A few studies have explored the relationship between these
circuits, such as the impact of teachers and parents (Rohner,
2010, Tulviste, and Rohner, 2010) or parents and siblings
(Rohner, et al. submitted). Some studies have shown that par-
ents and teachers are intermediate: In Bangladesh, for instance,
both teacher and parental acceptance were significantly corre-
lated with students’ psychological adjustment; however, results
of multiple regressions revealed that only teachers’ acceptance
(but not parental acceptance) made a significant and independ-
ent contribution to variations in the adolescents’ (both males’
and females’) psychological adjustment (Rohner, Khaleque,
Elias, and Sultan, 2010). Interestingly, as far as we know, no
research has been carried out on the acceptance-rejection by
parents, siblings, teachers, and classmates all combined, and on
the associations between these circuits and the children’s psy-
chological adjustments. This systemic research approach is
crucial, because circuits of rejection constitute one whole sys-
The association between acceptance-rejection and psycho-
logical disorders depends on how the rejecting act is perceived.
In some cultures, for instance, authoritarian parenting, parental
control, and punishments are perceived positively and associ-
ated with care and love (Chao, 1994, 2001; Dwairy, Achoui,
Farah, & Abouserie, 2006; Rohner and Pettengill 1985). There-
fore, in this research we focus on the perceived acceptance-
rejection and the experienced psychological states of adoles-
cents as it is expressed through self-report measures. Because
the association between acceptance-rejection and psychological
adjustment of children is gender specific (Rohner, 2010), in this
research we studied the acceptance-rejection circuit in a gender
specific manner. The association between male and female
adolescents’ psychological adjustment and eight circuits of
rejection (those of mother, father, sisters, brothers, female and
male teachers, and female and male classmates) were studied
together. We hypothesized that all rejection phenomena are
associated and that all of them are associated with the adoles-
cents’ psychological adjustment. In addition, we hypothesized
to find a cross-gender effect on adolescents’ psychological
states: The associations between adolescents’ psychological
adjustment and rejection would be significant when the rejec-
tion would come from an opposite-sex parent, siblings, teachers,
or peers.
The sample consisted of 350 female and 220 male 10th grade
students (15 - 16 years old) in five villages in northern Israel.
Based on the demographic data they provided, 37.2% of the
fathers and 27.2% of the mothers had less than 12 years of
education. About a third of the parents had finished high school
and 31.5% of the fathers and 40.3% of the mothers had com-
pleted higher education at a college or university. About 54%
of the subjects reported that the family’s economic level was
within the average range of the population. Only 5.9% reported
an economic level below the average and 40.1% above the
Questionnaires with standard instructions were administered
by M.A. students of educational counseling. The high school
students had 40 minutes to fill out the questionnaires during an
education course. In accordance with the school regulations,
consent was obtained from the school inspector and/or the par-
ents’ committee. Participation was voluntary; however, there
were no refusals.
In addition to the demographic information, the subjects
were asked to fill out two questionnaires: Dwairy’s Rejection
Scale and Psychological State Scale.
Dwairy’s Rejection Scale: Until then parental acceptance-
rejection had been measured mainly by means of questionnaires,
and peer rejection via sociometric rating and nomination meth-
ods, teacher reports, and observations (Ladd, Herald, Slutzky,
& Andrews, 2004; Nelson, Rubin, & Fox, 2005; Rohner,
Khaleque, and Cournoyer, 2005). In order to use one measure-
ment for all circuits of acceptance-rejection, we developed a
unified questionnaire that is based on PARTheory. According
to that theory, parents express their acceptance or rejection in
four main ways, namely by being warm and affectionate, hos-
tile and aggressive, indifferent and neglectful, and an undiffer-
entiated way of rejection. Based on this, 20 items were created
to assess these ways. Ten items express acceptance (e.g. This
person admires me) and another 10 items express rejection (e.g.
This person belittles me). Five psychologists who are familiar
with PARTheory were asked to classify these items into two
categories: acceptance and rejection. Items that did not obtain
full agreement by all the five psychologists were omitted. The
final set of items included 12 items: six expressing acceptance
and six expressing rejection. This set of items was used to as-
sess acceptance and rejection by eight significant others, as
perceived by the adolescent, namely father, mother, brothers,
sisters, male teachers, female teachers, male and female class-
mates. The whole acceptance-rejection scale includes 96 items
with 12 parallel items for each significant other. The adoles-
cents are asked to rate their response on a 6-point Likert scale
(ranging from 5 = always, to 0 = never).
Eight principal factor analysis were conducted on the 12
items concerning each significant other/others acceptance-re-
jection responses with varimax rotation, a priori two factors
solution, and a .20 loading criterion. In all eight analyses all
items of acceptance were loaded in one factor and all items of
rejection were loaded in the second factor. The explained vari-
ances varied from 47.5% to 66.7% (Table 1). The scores of the
rejection items were reversed. Alpha Chronbach’s coefficient
for the father, mother, brothers, sisters, male teachers, female
teachers, male classmates, and female classmates was calcu-
lated and found .85, .87, .91, .91, .87, .86, .87, and .90 respec-
tively. The mean of the reversed six rejection items was added
to the mean of the six acceptanc ones to obtain a score of ac- e
Table 1.
Principal factor analyses of the twelve items of acceptance-rejection for each significant figure/s.
Item Father Mother Brothers Sisters
Listen with interest to what I am saying .75 .65 .37 .76 .21 .73.27 .69 .26 .71 .26 .71 .22 .75 .24
Does not pay attention to what I am saying .23 .52 .26 .60 .32 .67 .26 .75.28 .57 .72 .41 .44 .36 .60
Praise me in front people .57 .70 .77 .75 .75 .79 .78 .85
Insult me in front people .30 .61 .34 .58 .24 .76 .21 .79 .73 .75 .77 .21 .77
Admires me .68 .35 .78 .21.79 .24 .80 .21 .73 .81 .86 .83 .25
Belittles me .21 .69 .69 .23 .80 .23 .85.21 .73 .73 .40 .66 .34 .75
Helps me when I need help .62 .26 .72 .26.79 .25 .83 .22 .76 .29 .75 .25 .84 .85 .23
Does not care to my needs and difficulties .68 .64 .31 .78 .22 .79 .25 .64.36 .49 .28 .60 .30 .71
Understands my weakness and difficulties .71 .70 .30 .80 .25 .85 .27 .77 .75 .77 .20 .82
Stresses me in his request and expectations .24 .57 .56 .72 .68 .64 .45 .51 .68
Cares for my feelings .77 .22 .68 .40.77 .36 .78 .30 .77 .21 .73 .28 .73 .23 .79 .23
Indifferent toward my feelings .48 .45 .69 .40 .71 .81.44 .55 .38 .58 .74 .81
Explained variance 27.4 20.1 27.423.934.430.633.533. 22.0 34.6 21.3 36.728.2
ceptance of each figure. A higher score indicates a higher ac-
The Psychological State Scale: The items of this scale were
taken from a broader scale, developed in Arabic by Hamuda
and Imam (1996) to assess twenty-seven psychological states
among adolescents and adults in Egypt. In our scale we in-
cluded items that assess the most common four psychological
states: anxiety (e.g. I feel anxious, I am worried), depression (I
feel sad, I don’t feel like doing anything), conduct disorder (I
respond violently, I disobey rules), and somatization (I feel
fatigue, I feel pressure in my chest). Our scale included 20
items (five for each state) and the adolescents were asked to
rate their response on a 6-point Likert scale (ranging from 5 =
always, to 0 = never). Alpha Cronbach’s coefficient of the scale
was .95, indicating a robust internal homogeneity (Dwairy,
Achoui, Filus, Rezvan nia, Casullo, & Vohra, 2010). The sum
of the scores on this scale serves us to assess the psychological
states among adolescents.
We calculated the means of the perceived acceptance-rejec-
tion scores of male and female adolescents. Table 2 shows that
female adolescents reported more acceptance by fathers, female
classmates, and male and female teachers than male adolescents
did. Moreover, the attitude of sisters to their brothers and sisters
was more accepting than that of brothers. The scores of experi-
enced psychological states among female adolescents were
significantly higher than those among male adolescents. A post
hoc analysis indicated that female adolescents experience
higher anxiety, depression and somatic symptoms than male
adolescents, but not conduct problems.
To understand the relationship between the eight perceived
acceptance-rejection circuits with the eight significant other/s,
Pearson’s correlations coefficients were calculated (Table 3)
and they indicated significant shared variances between the
acceptance-rejection scores of all circuits. The shared variance
was especially high between male and female parents, siblings,
teachers, and classmates. Table 3 also shows the correlation
coefficients between the perceived acceptance-rejection circuits
and psychological states experienced by adolescents and indi-
cates that all the circuits are associated with psychological
states: The higher the acceptance, the lower the psychological
Because of the high correlation coefficients between accep-
tance scores of all eight circuits, we conducted series of princi-
pal factor analyses on all items of acceptance-rejection (96
items) with a priori 8 then 4 factors solution and varimax rota-
tion. We found that the items of parents and siblings tend to
merge in the same factor, therefore we conducted factor analy-
ses on all items with a priori 3 factors and found that factor one
explained 12.5% of the variance and included all items of father,
mother, brothers, and sisters, and we labeled it Family’s Ac-
ceptance. Factor two explained 10.27% of the variance and
included all items of the male and female classmates, and we
labeled it Classmates’ Acceptance, and factor three explained
8.98% of the variance and included all items of male and fe-
male teachers and we labeled it Teachers’ Acceptance.
Multiple regression was conducted to learn about the asso-
ciations between these three factors of acceptance and psycho-
logical states of male and female adolescents, and we found
that all of them were significantly associated among male and
female adolescents (Table 4). The acceptance-rejection factors
explain 22% of the male and 20% of the female psychological
In order to learn more specifically about the contribution of
each acceptance-rejection circuit to explaining psychological
states’ variance, we conducted a post hoc stepwise regression
on the eight circuits among males and females. The model that
explains the male psychological states included perceived ac-
ceptance-rejection of mother, sisters, female teachers, and male
classmates, with R2 = 22.4. The model that explains the female
psychological states included pereived acceptance-rejection by c
Table 2.
Means of acceptance-re j ection and psychological states among male and female adolescents.
N Mean S. D F Sig.
male 217 7.86 1.47
female 321 8.28 1.40
Father AcRj
Total 538 8.08 1.44
9.12 .003
male 217 8.33 1.35
female 321 8.49 1.48 Mother AcRj
Total 538 8.42 1.43
n.s n.s
male 217 7.80 1.55
female 321 7.78 1.92 Brothers AcRj
Total 538 7.79 1.78
n.s n.s
male 217 8.34 1.32
female 321 8.48 1.55 Sisters AcRj
Total 538 8.42 1.46
n.s n.s
male 217 6.77 1.98
female 321 7.35 1.54 Male teachers AcRj
Total 538 7.12 1.75
14.76 .000
male 217 7.22 1.68
female 321 7.76 1.54 Female teachers AcRj
Total 538 7.54 1.62
14.83 .000
male 217 7.93 1.51
female 321 7.97 1.47 Male classmates AcRj
Total 538 7.95 1.49
n.s n.s
male 217 7.87 1.71
female 321 8.69 1.41 Female classmates AcRj
Total 538 8.36 1.59
37.04 .000
male 217 22.09 15.56
female 321 28.78 20.75 Psy. Disorders
Total 538 26.08 19.10
16.37 .000
mother, father, and brothers, with R2 = 21.9 (Table 5). In this
analysis we notice that some associations between perceived
acceptance-rejection circuits and experienced psychological
states that were significant when treated separately as was
shown in Table 3, became insignificant because of the shared
variance between the acceptance-rejection circuits.
This study explored the associations between eight perceived
acceptance-rejection circuits and experienced psychological
states by male and female adolescents. We found that female
adolescents display and receive more acceptance than male
adolescents, and yet, apparently also for other reasons they
experience higher anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms.
In accordance with our hypothesis, the eight circuits of per-
ceived acceptance-rejection were associated. The shared vari-
ance was especially high between male and female parents,
siblings, teachers, and classmates. This may indicate a general
perceived atmosphere of acceptance-rejection that all signifi-
cant others share in their attitude to the adolescent. This shared
acceptance-rejection may be attributed to mutual influences
between the figures (e.g. father and mother or male teachers
and female teachers), but such influences could barely occur
among some figures that were also correlated, such as parents
and classmates. Therefore it appears that the shared accep-
tance-rejection tendencies may also be attributed to the adoles-
cents’ characteristics or behavior that may evoke certain levels
f acceptance-rejection. Alternatively, it may be attributed to a o
Table 3.
Correlation coeffic ients between acceptance fac tors and psychological states.
Acceptance by Fath. Moth. Broth. Sist. M. teach. F. teach. M.clssmts F. clssmts Pd
Father 1.00
.56** .43** .35** .30** .35** .35** .42** .34**
Mother .56** 1.00 .48** .46** .31** .30** .36** .32** .38**
Brothers .43** .48** 1.00 .49** .20** .27** .28** .37** .32**
Sisters .35** .46** .49** 1.00 .26** .33** .32** .34** .25**
Male teachers .30** .31** .20** .26** 1.00 .75** .26** .25** .18**
Female teachers .35** .30** .27** .33** .75** 1.00 .34** .36** .16**
Male classmates .35** .36** .28** .32** .27** .34** 1.00 .68** .22**
Female classmates .42** .32** .37** .34** .25** .36** .68** 1.00 .19**
Psychological states .34** .38** .32** .25** .18** .16** .22** .19** 1.00
**Correlation is significant at the 0.0001 level (2-tailed).
Table 4.
Associations between a cceptance factors and psycho l o gical states of male and fema le adolescents.
Male adolescents Female adolescents
Acceptance factors
β t Sig. β t Sig.
Family (Parents and siblings) .37 6.10 .000 .42 8.32 .000
Teachers 16 02.71 .007 .12 2.45 .015
Classmates .23 3.70 .000 .14 2.83 .005
Explained variance (Adjusted R²) .22 .20
Table 5.
Associations between acceptance circuits and psychological stat e s of male and female adolesc e nts.
Male adolescents Female adolescents
Acceptance by
β t Sig. β t Sig.
.212 3.484 .001
Mother .240 3.410 .001 .235 3.902 .000
.131 2.124 .034
Sisters .146 2.085 .038
Male teachers
Female teachers .140 2.096 .037
Male classmates .136 1.989 .048
Female classmates
Explained variance (Adjusted R2) 22.4 21.9
cognitive generalization in the adolescents’ minds. For this,
there is a need for further research that involves behavioral
measures of acceptance-rejection.
All the eight circuits of perceived acceptance-rejection were
associated with adolescents’ psychological states: The higher
the perceived acceptance, the lower the experienced psycho-
logical states. Owing to the high correlation coefficients be-
tween acceptance scores of all eight circuits, we found that
these circuits merge in three major independent factors: fam-
ily, teachers, and classmates. All of them were significantly
associated with psychological states of male and female ado-
Post hoc stepwise regressions indicate that 22.4% of experi-
enced male psychological states are explained by perceived
acceptance-rejection by mother, sisters, female teachers, and
male classmates, and 21.9% of experienced female psycho-
logical states are explained by perceived acceptance-rejection
by mother, father, and brothers. Experienced psychological
states of male adolescents were associated with perceived ac-
ceptance-rejection circuits, mainly by female figures at home
and at school, while those of female adolescents were associ-
ated with acceptance-rejection circuits at home only. Interest-
ingly, perceived mothers’ acceptance-rejection was central
among male and female adolescents, while that of the fathers
was associated only with female psychological states. In addi-
tion, the experienced psychological states of both male and
female adolescents were not associated with perceived accep-
tance-rejection circuits with the same sex siblings: Psychologi-
cal states of male adolescents were associated with sisters and
those of female adolescents with brothers. These findings sup-
port other findings that indicated a cross-gender effect and in-
termediation between various circuits of acceptance-rejection
(Rohner, 2010; Tulviste & Rohner, 2010).
In this research we found robust evidence of the association
between various perceived circuits of rejection and adolescents’
experienced psychological states; nevertheless the relationship
between rejection and psychological states is far from simple. It
is advisable to perceive this relationship as a system of accep-
tance-rejection, where many factors interact and intermediate.
The relationship with psychological states is not a self-evident
cause-effect relationship. The acceptance-rejection by signifi-
cant others interacts with the child’s behavior in a mutual way
and is also moderated by many other etiological factors, such as
socialization and genetic factors.
It is important to note that some circuits of perceived accep-
tance-rejection that were significantly associated with experi-
enced psychological states when treated separately as shown in
table 3, turned out to be insignificant when treated together in
one regression analysis (Table 5). This difference discloses the
danger of studying the explained variance of experienced psy-
chological states via single or few circuits of perceived accep-
tance-rejection. In such reductionist studies, the shared vari-
ances between the circuits are overlooked, and thus produce
false and unreal associations between acceptance-rejection and
psychological states. This situation reinforces the need for a
systemic approach in research related to parenting, already
highlighted in former articles by the author (Dwairy, 2009a,
2009b). Since in real life many factors interact and generate a
specific phenomenon, and the associations between two factors
is dependent on the presence or absence of many other related
factors, the more factors are included in one analysis, the more
valid are the associations found.
Two main strong points characterize this study: The major
eight circuits of rejection were studied together and a unified
measure of acceptance-rejection was used to avoid methodo-
logical influences on the results. The results are based on ado-
lescents’ self-reports that provide information about the ado-
lescents’ subjective experience, which is important for clinical
work, however it may not be indicate what certain significant
others actually did. Therefore, there is a need for additional
research among various age and cultural groups, using other
tools such as parents’ self-reports and observation of parent-
child interaction.
Looking at rejection as a system in which various circuits in-
teract has its implications on intervention strategies. It appears
that in order to help a child, counselors and therapists need to
tailor a systemic intervention, covering both the family (parents
and siblings) and the school (teachers and classmates). This is
crucial, in particular when dealing with a male adolescent,
whose psychological adjustment is associated with figures both
at home and at school, and in particular with female figures
such as mothers and sisters, and female teachers in addition to
male classmates.
Acceptance-rejection circuits at home and at school are
components of a system of acceptance-rejection, in which all
circuits are associated and interact with each other, and as a
whole are related to children’s mental health in a way that is
dependent on the gender of parents, siblings, teachers, and
peers and the children’s gender.
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