Definition: "Controversial children" are one of five types of sociometric or peer statuses, a system for categorizing a child's social standing based on peer responses to that child. Kids who are categorized as controversial get both highly positive and highly negative ratings from their peers. In other words, some kids love the controversial child (i.e., call him a "best friend") while others strongly dislike him.
Controversial children have characteristics that set them apart from their peers. They tend to be more aggressive than others their age. Because of this, they often cause problems in the classroom and create interpersonal troubles with peers. That said, controversial children are also friendly, helpful and cooperative. They tend to be natural leaders and are often respected for their willingness to jump in and take charge. Thus controversial children have both negative and positive characteristics, leading some kids-and teachers-to think that these types of children are wonderful while causing others to think they are nothing but trouble.
Related terms: average child, neglected child, popular children, rejected child, sociometric status
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.