Relationships between two forms of social position and peer affiliations: patterns across the transition from elementary to middle school Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Hodgson, Kristin Keagy
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • Contradictions regarding social relations currently exist within the literature, specifically with respect to the nature, causes, and correlates of social position. These contradictions stem from conceptual and methodological inconsistencies as well as developmental differences in certain traits and constructs. Building from these diverse research frameworks, the current study is designed to clarify relationships among relevant constructs in order to facilitate future research and the development of practical interventions. The current study addressed the contradictions in the literature by investigating the relationship between several aspects of social functioning including social position (social preference and social prominence) and peer affiliations across the transition from elementary to middle school. Peer interpersonal ratings in both fifth and sixth grades were available for 566 students; teacher ratings were also collected for those with consent for participation (399 students in fifth grade; 417 students in sixth grade). Results highlighted the complex nature of social relationships during early middle school when social networks are fluid. First, the social position constructs of social preference and social prominence were found to diverge for boys across the transition, but to stay constant for girls. Next, aggression was found to be negatively correlated with social preference and positively correlated with social prominence, with some decrease in the strength and significance of these correlations across the transition to middle school, especially for social prominence. Gender effects were apparent and suggested that girls' use of aggression at the beginning of middle school is complex; these results are considered in the context of ethnographic research. Finally, the social position constructs were found to be minimally related to the characteristics of peer affiliates, with the most consistent relationships between individual social prominence and peer popularity. This study supports the development and importance of social interventions at the beginning of middle school when social hierarchies are developing and social structures are fluid. Furthermore, it highlights the difficulties involved in conducting a static assessment of a dynamic social network.
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  • Wasik, Barbara Hanna
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

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