Reactions should be about one page, typed, single-spaced and must consist of the following:? 1) brief summaries of the week’s readings 2) connections or contradictions across the readin
Reactions should be about one page, typed, single-spaced and must consist of the following:
1) brief summaries of the week’s readings
2) connections or contradictions across the readings
3) synthesis of the readings (e.g. how do they together speak to the topic of the week),
4) a commentary of your thoughts about the readings or any lingering questions you have about the content.
The topic is: PEER GROUPS.. This reading reaction must cover all readings on Peer Groups (e.g., two articles).
Peer Relationships in Adolescence
B. BRADFORD BROWN AND JAMES LARSON
For decades, scholars have pointed to peer relationships as one of the most important features of adolescence. Peers have been alternately blamed for some of the more prob- lematic aspects of adolescent functioning and praised for contributing to adolescent health and well – being. Recently, researchers have pushed the study of peer relations in excit- ing new directions, using more sophisticated methodologies to explore understudied aspects of adolescent peer relationships and mecha- nisms of influence. In this chapter, we review the issues that investigators have pursued over the past 5 years, since the last edition of this Handbook , that pertain to adolescent peer relations. We consider how findings from these studies improve our understanding of the role that peers play in the lives of adolescents and how these studies chart a direction for future research in the area.
SCOPE AND OBJECTIVES
This chapter is not intended to be a compre- hensive review of scholarly work on adoles- cent peer relations, which now spans well over half a century, nor is it our intention to summarize all of the recent work related to peer interactions. We pursue the more limited task of calling attention to research that moves the field past well established features of adoles- cent peer relations and interactions toward a more integrative understanding of how peers affect adolescent development. We pay particu- lar attention to conceptual and methodological innovations that underlie recent scholarship.
Because most researchers rely on chrono- logical age or school grade levels to define their samples, we focus on studies that con- centrate on young people between the ages of 11 and 22, or roughly from the beginning of secondary school (most typically, grade 6 in North America) to the end of college. Operationalizing adolescence in this way is controversial. Increasing numbers of young people are entering puberty prior to the tran- sition to secondary school (see chapter 5 , vol. 1 of this Handbook ), lending credibility to the argument that adolescence, at least as it is defined by biology, may be drifting down the age span to the elementary school years. However, we maintain that there are still major social structural changes that are age – graded or tied to school transitions in technologically advanced societies (in which most research on peer relations occurs). Because these changes have a substantial effect on peer relations, it is sensible to confine our analyses to the age and grade levels that we have stipulated.
The field of peer relationships encompasses a wide variety of affiliations. We give scant attention in this chapter to three important components of the field: romantic relation- ships, sexually based interests and activities, and groups of young people engaged in formal activities organized and supervised by adults. Each of these components is a central con- cern of other chapters in this Handbook ( see chapter 14 , vol. 1; chapter 4 , vol. 2; chapter 7 , vol. 2 of this Handbook ). Given recent efforts to integrate research across various facets of
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Handbook of Adolescent Psychology, edited by Richard M. Lerner and Laurence Steinberg.
Copyright # 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Conventional Wisdom About Peer Relations 75
peer relations, however, we caution readers that this partitioning may inadvertently dimin- ish emphasis on scholarly efforts to provide a more integrative portrait of adolescent peer relations.
Finally, some of the intriguing research on ethnic identity and ethnic discrimination treats those who share an ethnic background as a peer group, or uses ethnic peers as a basis for examining how ethnic background affects ado- lescents (see chapter 15 , this volume). There is little doubt that aspects of adolescents ’ inter- actions with peers and the adolescent peer system contribute to ethnic identity develop- ment, or that peer relationships contribute to norms about discrimination or activities that reveal racial and ethnic prejudices, but most of the studies that we examined did not approach peers from this perspective. For example, Killen et al. ( 2007 ) asked a sample of U.S. youth from minority and nonminority backgrounds to indicate how wrong it would be to exclude a peer from a school – or community – based social activity because of the peer ’ s ethnicity, and then to justify their decision. Responses pointed to age differences in attitudes about racially moti- vated exclusion, but did not speak directly to the peer dynamics that might underlie age dif- ferences. As a result, we do not include this or similar studies in our review.
To fully appreciate current work in the field one must understand the foundation on which it is built. Before examining recent research, we quickly review ten assertions derived from older studies about peer relations in adoles- cence. The assertions constitute conventional wisdom about peer relations from which recent studies have been derived. Then, following Hartup ’ s (2006) advice for organizing the lit- erature, we proceed with an analysis of recent research as it pertains to four major facets of peer relations and interaction. The first encom- passes characteristics of individuals that have some direct bearing on social relationships. Studies of popularity or social status, aggres- sion, friendship expectations, and peer crowd identification exemplify this category. We then
turn attention to characteristics of relationships, including the degree of similarity or comple- mentarity among friends, the quality of friend- ships, the nature of antagonistic relations, and features of peer groups. A third area of research concerns interpersonal processes that ado- lescents encounter in their relationships with peers. Peer influence is the dominant concern in this area, but there is also research on other social processes within friendships, antagonis- tic relationships (e.g., bullying behavior), and small groups. Finally, we consider contextual influences on peer interactions. In addition to the family and school, investigators have con- sidered the role that ethnic or cultural back- ground, and electronic media (especially, the Internet) play in adolescent peer relations. A few investigators have also engaged in cross – national comparisons of peer relations. We end with recommendations for future research on peer – related issues.
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM ABOUT PEER RELATIONS
As evidence accumulated over the second half of the twentieth century, researchers came to several conclusions about the nature of peer relations in adolescence. The basis for these conclusions has been covered in greater detail in previous reviews of the literature (Berndt & Murphy, 2002 ; Brown, 1990 ; Bukowski & Adams, 2005 ; Hartup, 1999 ; Savin – Williams & Berndt, 1990 ). We offer a brief summary here to set the stage for closer examination of recent scholarship:
1. Peer relations become more salient in ado- lescence . The transition from childhood to adolescence engenders changes in the indi- vidual, social context, and social norms that serve to elevate the importance of peers. Young people become likely to spend more time with age mates, often with reduced oversight by adults, and they put greater stock in the expectations and opin- ions of peers. In some arenas, peers com- pete with adults as a significant source of
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76 Peer Relationships in Adolescence
influence on adolescent attitudes, activities, and emotional well – being.
2. With the transition to adolescence, peer relations grow more complex . Concomitant with the growing importance of peers is an increase in the complexity of the peer system. New types of relationships emerge in adolescence — most notably, romantic relationships — and new levels of the peer system become apparent, such as repu- tation – based crowds or a broader youth culture. In selecting friends, romantic part- ners, or friendship groups, young people grow more sensitive to the ramifications of a specific relationship for their status or reputation within the broader peer system. In other words, young people must nego- tiate peer relationships and issues on a broader set of levels than they did in child- hood. This prompts researchers to dif- ferentiate more carefully between dyadic and group relations and to distinguish among different types of relationships at each level. The dynamics within friend- ships cannot be expected to be equivalent to the dynamics within other dyadic con- nections: romantic relationships, sexual liaisons, mutual antipathies, or bully – victim relationships. Likewise, the features of interaction based friendship groups are likely to differ from those of reputation based crowd affiliations. Although differ- ent types of relationship or levels of peer association are distinctive, they remain interdependent. For example, openness to and success in romantic relationships are contingent on experiences within the friendship group (Connolly, Furman, & Konarski, 2000 ), and friendship norms vary among crowds (Finders, 1997 ).
3. Friendships and friendship groups are char- acterized by similarity, which is a product of both partner selection and influence . A fundamental feature of friendships is that partners share many characteristics in common. Through systematic research, investigators have discovered that this is
because similar background, tastes, values, and interests propel individuals to select each other as friends, and as these charac- teristics are affirmed within the relation- ship, the partners are likely to grow even more similar to each other (Cohen, 1977 ; Kandel, 1978 ). Moreover, if, over time, friends begin to diverge in attitudes and activities, the strength of their bond will diminish, often to the point that the rela- tionship ends. The fact that similarity between friends is driven by the interaction of these three forces — selection, socializa- tion, and deselection — makes it difficult to estimate the degree of influence that friends have on each other. Moreover, there are questions about whether adolescents remain equally susceptible to influence by a friend over the entire course of their relationship.
4. Status or prestige is an important element of adolescent peer relations . By defini- tion, peer relations refers to associations among equals, but in reality the equality is confined to individuals who share the same life stage (fellow adolescents). Hierarchies emerge within aspects of the peer system, such that certain crowds have more status than others (Brown, Von Bank, & Steinberg, 2008 ; Horn, 2006 ), and cliques feature leaders and followers (Dunphy, 1969 ), if not an even more differentiated “ pecking order ” or dominance hierarchy (Adler & Adler, 1998 ; Savin – Williams, 1980 ). Even within friendships or roman- tic ties, which are dyadic relations sup- posedly founded on the principles of equality and reciprocity, one partner often appears to have more power than the other (Giordano, Longmore, & Manning, 2006 ; Updegraff et al., 2004 ). Within any group of young people, certain individu- als are rated as more likable than others, or more popular than others (Cillessen & Rose, 2005 ). As adolescents consider or negotiate relationships with specific peers or peer groups, they must be sensitive
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Conventional Wisdom About Peer Relations 77
to status differentiations. The importance of status can vary among groups of young people (Peshkin, 1991 ), but the impact of the status dimension on peer interaction should not be neglected by researchers.
5. Young people with good social skills are better adjusted than those with poor social skills . Although intuitively obvious, it has been important for researchers to docu- ment that deficiencies in social skills place young people at risk for poor adaptation in terms of academic, social, and emotional outcomes. Much of this work has concen- trated on childhood, when rudimentary social skills are learned and practiced. The changing peer landscape in adolescence, in which new types of relationships and levels of peer interaction emerge, calls for a broader set of social skills, underscoring the importance of continuing to study the development of social skills through this stage of life. However, measures of social self – concept and social skills often fail to assess the full range of skills that adoles- cents must develop to negotiate the social system effectively.
6. S ocial acceptance is also a good indicator of adjustment . Within a peer system young people can be grouped or ranked in terms of sociometric status as well as power or prestige. Across the last third of the twen- tieth century a vast literature developed tracking the characteristics of groups of children and adolescents identified by ask- ing young people to nominate the peers (usually, school classmates) whom they like the most and like the least (or whom they most and least want to play with or have as friends or partners in a group activ- ity). Applying a standard set of decision rules to these sociometric data, investiga- tors differentiated groups of young people who were popular (widely nominated as well liked and rarely nominated as dis- liked), rejected (widely disliked and rarely liked), neglected (rarely nominated as liked or disliked), and controversial
(receiving considerable nominations as liked and disliked). The groups differed substantially and consistently on vari- ous emotional and behavioral outcomes (Cillessen & Mayeux, 2004b ). Subsequent longitudinal studies indicated that socio- metric status predicted (at modest levels) these outcomes, but to a certain extent was also predicted by them.
Although useful as a fundamental indica- tor of peer acceptance, sociometric catego- ries have several limitations. First, each category is not necessarily cohesive. Most notably, investigators found substantial differences in adjustment and behavior patterns of rejected youth depending on whether or not they were aggressive toward peers. Also, the sociometric categorization was always a relative judgment, dependent on the features of the criterion group. If an adolescent was assigned to a classroom containing a large number of affable and well adjusted peers, her chances of being categorized as popular were less than if she had been placed in a classroom with many shy or highly aggressive students. Most significant was that the category sys- tem failed to reveal why peers regarded some children as likable and others as dis- agreeable. Thus, the very convenient cat- egorization system did not get at the heart of adolescents ’ relationships with peers.
7. Self – perceptions of peer relations or the peer system are unreliable . Early studies of peer relations and peer influences often relied upon respondents to report not only their own attitudes and behavior but also the attitudes and activities of significant peers. For example, estimates of peer influ- ence were derived by correlating adoles- cents ’ reports of their own behavior and the behavior of their closest friend, friend- ship group, or generalized set of peers. Later investigations comparing these esti- mates to direct reports from (or observa- tions of) the targeted peers revealed two
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78 Peer Relationships in Adolescence
patterns. First, adolescents tended to over- estimate the degree of congruence between themselves and their peers (Kandel & Andrews, 1987 ), so that inferences from many studies exaggerated the degree of peer influ- ence. Second, adolescents also overestimated peer involvement in antisocial, unhealthy, or maladaptive behavior such as drug use, sexual activity, or inattentiveness to school- work (Prinstein & Wang, 2005 ). The impli- cations of these findings are controversial, as scholars debate whether adolescents are likely to be influenced more by the actual attitudes or behaviors of peers or adoles- cents ’ perceptions of these peer character- istics. In any case, researchers have grown more cautious about relying upon adoles- cents to report on their peers ’ behaviors, pre- ferring instead to gather information about peers directly from the appropriate associ- ates of a target respondent.
8. Peer affiliations and peer reputations are only moderately stable . Unlike adolescents ’ relationships with significant others in the family, school (e.g., teachers), or commu- nity (e.g., health care professionals, activity supervisors such as coaches or music teach- ers), close peer associates are relatively ephemeral. Most early adolescents are likely to name a different peer as their best friend at the beginning and end of a school year. It is rare for a friendship group or clique to remain entirely intact over a 6 – month period, and rarer still for early adolescents to retain the same romantic partner for this period of time. Studies suggest that sociometric sta- tus (being popular, accepted, neglected, or rejected) is not very stable, although more so for the rejected category than others (Jiang & Cillessen, 2005 ). Understandably, youth who retain the same sociometric clas- sification over long time periods reflect the strengths or limitations of that status to a greater extent than sociometrically transient peers (Cillessen, Bukowski, & Haselager, 2000 ). The limited data that exist suggest that peer crowd affiliations often change as well (Kinney, 1993 ).
Two facets of adolescents ’ peer rela- tionships point to stability, however. First, as individuals move through adolescence their friendships grow more stable and romantic relationships tend to last longer. Second, amidst routine changes in specific relationship partners and peer affiliations, adolescents do display stability in the types of individuals and groups with whom they affiliate. For example, individuals who are part of a predominantly aggressive clique at the beginning of the school year usually appear in an aggressive group at year ’ s end as well, even if their group ’ s specific membership has changed substantially (Cairns, Leung, & Buchanan, 1995 ).
9. Peer influence is a reciprocal process . A primary focus of studies of adolescent peer relations is the extent to which young people are influenced by peers. In most cases, researchers organize their studies to evaluate the degree of influence that some aspect of the peer system has on an adolescent, failing to take into account that adolescents influence others as well as being influenced by them. The reciprocal, transactional nature of peer influence is very difficult to capture in research stud- ies, especially if the research is grounded in traditional socialization theories that are based on unilateral patterns of influence. We expect parents, teachers, coaches, or other adults to influence children to a much greater extent than they are influenced by them, allowing us to overlook reciprocal pat- terns of influence in these relationships more easily. Although investigators acknowledge the need to examine peer influence from a bilateral perspective, they still struggle to develop methodologies to accomplish this.
10. Studies of peer influence must consider characteristics of the influence agent, the tar- get of the influence, and the individuals ’ rela- tionship. An important step toward charting the reciprocal nature of peer influence is integrating three factors in a study ’ s research design (Brown, Bakken, Ameringer, &
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Peer-Related Characteristics of Individuals 79
Mahon, 2008 ; Hartup, 2005 ). One is the characteristics of the individual identified (at least for research purposes) as the target of influence. Variability in adoles- cents ’ competence and self – confidence in a particular domain, along with their sus- ceptibility or openness to peer influence, should affect the degree to which they are affected by others. Likewise, characteris- tics of the person or group identified as the agent of influence — expertise or credibility in a given domain and facility in exerting influence, for instance — should contribute significantly to the process. Finally, investi- gators must consider features of the relation- ship between influencer and influenced: the nature and strength of the bond, the amount of time they have been associated with each other, and so on. Placing all of these factors into a theoretical and measurement model is challenging, but as Hartup (2005, p. 388) notes, ignoring them is foolhardy: “ Main effects conclusions in the peer contagion literature are, by and large, either oversim- plified or dead wrong ” (p. 388).
As new research builds on these fundamental assertions, investigators sometimes find it neces- sary to qualify them. Understandably, the asser- tions may not apply to all populations at all phases of adolescence in all historical circumstances. Nevertheless, they form a strong foundation on which to proceed with a better elaborated under- standing of particular features of adolescents ’ interactions with age – mates. With this caveat, we turn attention to studies that build upon asser- tions 4 – 6 above in exploring individual charac- teristics that shape the type of peer relationships and experiences that adolescents encounter.
PEER – RELATED CHARACTERISTICS OF INDIVIDUALS
The Nature of Popularity
One of the mostly widely studied peer char- acteristics is popularity. In previous decades, investigators produced scores of reports based on sociometric data that allowed them to assign young people (mostly children) to
standard sociometric categories — popular, rejected, neglected, average, or controversial — based on the frequency with which they were nominated as liked or disliked by peers (usu- ally, school classroom mates). Members of various categories were compared on a host of personal characteristics or indicators of well – being, usually demonstrating a distinct advantage for popular youth, especially in comparison to rejected peers. These studies have faded, mostly because the paradigm has been pushed to its limits in providing new insights (Rubin, Bukowski, & Parker, 2006 ), but also because of two problems in applying the paradigm to adolescent samples. First, the structure of middle schools in North American and several other nations was not well suited to standard sociometric techniques. With stu- dents migrating among classrooms with shifting sets of peers throughout the day, there was not the small, stable social unit on which social relationships (and sociometric status) could be based. Equally troublesome was that ado- lescents had already co – opted the paradigm ’ s primary construct, popularity, but imbued it with a different meaning than the one that sociometric researchers had in mind. Rather than being well liked, nominated frequently as someone that people wanted to play with or have as a friend, a popular adolescent was someone with high status or prestige — and, probably, power — in the teenage social system.
Two Forms of Popularity
In essence, researchers discovered that ado- lescence features two forms of popularity, one related to status and the other to being well liked. This discovery soon prompted investi- gators to explore the nature and distinctive- ness of both forms, in terms of their stability, intercorrelation, relation to other personal characteristics, and influence on social and psychological adjustment. Although there is not complete consensus on labels for the two forms of popularity, they are most commonly referred to as sociometric popularity , referring to the degree to which individuals are well liked or
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80 Peer Relationships in Adolescence
low status groups were further differentiated, in part, by their average level of sociometric popularity. The “ popular studious ” group was well liked by peers, whereas the “ popular disengaged ” group was not.
Stability of Popularity Ratings
To further understand the disaggregation of popularity ratings over time, it is helpful to consider the stability of these ratings. Few investigators have examined sociometric ratings over periods longer than a year. One important exception is a study by Cillessen and Mayeux ( 2004a ), who tracked popularity scores of a sample of middle class U.S. youth from grades 5 through 9. Year – to – year stability correlations were quite high (0.50 – 0.90), but 4 – year stability coefficients were more modest (0.40 – 0.50). Perceived popularity ratings were more stable among boys than girls, whereas sociometric popularity scores were more stable among girls than boys. Among girls, perceived popularity had higher stability coefficients than sociomet- ric popularity; the pattern was not as clear among boys. Both ratings had lower stabilities across school transition years (from elemen- tary to middle school, and from middle to high school) than nontransition years.
School transitions precipitate transformations in the peer social system (Kinney, 1993 ) and this process may serve to differentiate sociometric and perceived popularity. In some school con- texts, for example, ethnic background becomes a stronger basis for friend selection and group formation as young people move into middle school. In a sample of 6th graders attending multiethnic schools in California, Bellmore, Nishina, Witkow, Graham, and Juvonen ( 2007 ) noted a within – ethnic group bias in sociometric popularity ratings of Latino, Asian American, and European American students: Each of these groups tended to nominate coethnic peers as well liked. African American students showed more of a global bias, naming coethnic peers as well – liked and disliked, but ignoring nonethnic peers in their nominations. As vari- ables such as ethnicity become more salient
sought out as activity partners or friends, and perceived popularity , indicating the amount of status or prestige assigned to a person (Cillessen & Rose, 2005 ). We will describe the literature with these terms.
Investigators have found that sociometric and perceived popularity are significantly cor- related, sometimes to a high degree (de Bruyn & Cillessen, 2006a , 2006b ) but more often mod- erately (Rose, Swenson, & Waller, 2004 ). An interesting longitudinal study of middle – class U.S. youth indicated that the correlation between perceived and sociometric popularity declined substantially between grades 4 and 9, especially for girls, to the point that among 9th – grade girls the two were no longer significantly associated (Cillessen & Mayeux, 2004a ).
One explanation for the growing distinc- tiveness of the two forms of popularity is that as the peer system grows more complex across adolescence, groups emerge that are organized by status or prestige. It is common for young people to label one of the higher status groups the “ populars, ” but this group is not necessarily well liked (Eckert, 1989 ). Likewise, members of groups with extremely low status (i.e., low perceived popularity) are not sought out for friendship (Kinney, 1993 ), so that it may well be the middle – status groups (with moderate perceived popularity) whose members are best liked, on average. Another possibility is that as status (perceived popularity) becomes a defining characteristic of crowds, likabil- ity (sociometric popularity) serves to further differentiate clusters of high – status youth. In interviews with a sample of Dutch early adolescents, de Bruyn and Cillessen ( 2006b ) discovered two distinct subgroups of high – status youth. The “ prosocial populars ” were described as friendly, helpful, social, and aca- demically engaged, whereas the “ populists ” were regarded as arrogant, cocky, aggressive, and antisocial. Applying cluster analysis to a similar sample of Dutch females of the same age, de Bruyn and Cillessen ( 2006a ) found five groups varying in perceived popularity and school engagement. Both high status and
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Peer-Related Characteristics of Individuals 81
to adolescents, they affect the identification or formation of in – groups and out – groups. In turn, this affects popularity ratings. It is wise for investigators to keep these social processes in mind as they trace individuals ’ popularity among peers across adolescence.
Correlates of Popularity
One variable that consistently differenti- ates sociometric and perceived popularity is aggression. As a general rule, aggression enhances one ’ s status, but detracts from like- ability (Cillessen & Borch, 2006 ; Sandstrom & Cillessen, 2006 ). Researchers have been intrigued particularly by the positive relation between aggression and perceived popularity because it defies the consistent findings in childhood samples that aggression detracts from a child ’ s “ popularity ” (what becomes labeled as sociometric popularity in studies of older youth) among classmates. The association between aggression and perceived popularity builds over time. Rose, Swenson, and Waller ( 2004 ) found that aggression was negatively associated with young people ’ s status among
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