PEER GROUP SOCIALIZATION OF AGGRESSION IN EARLY ADOLESCENCE: SOCIAL STATUS, GROUP CHARACTERISTICS, AND INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES
Committee memberSteinberg, Laurence D., 1952-
Marshall, Peter J.
Overton, Willis F.
Taylor, Ronald D., 1958-
Permanent link to this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12613/2369
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AbstractIn previous research on the importance of a peer group in shaping and supporting group members' antisocial behavior (e.g., aggression), researchers have focused on the influence of group norms on individuals' behavior. Two potential aspects of variability have been neglected: peers in a group would vary in the strength of influences on individuals, and individuals would vary in the openness to peer influences. Social learning theory and social impact theory suggest that a peer's social status would affect the strength of his/her influences on individuals' behavior. In this study, I investigated how social status is related to the strength of influences of peers in a group on individuals' aggression. Potential moderating effects of group characteristics (i.e., group status and group cohesion) were investigated. Moreover, individual characteristics (i.e., individual status and individuals' beliefs about aggression) were examined as factors which would influence individual member's openness to peer influences. Finally, previous studies have concentrated on the socialization of physical aggression in peer groups. In the current study, both physical and social aggression were investigated. A diverse sample of 7th-grade students (n = 336, mean age = 13.00) participated in this study. Data were collected in the fall (Time 1) and in the spring (Time 2) semesters of 7th grade. Group administration procedures were used to conduct a 45-minute survey session. Both forms of aggression, physical and social aggression, were measured by peer nominations and victim nominations at both time points. The Social Cognitive Map (SCM) procedure was used to identify peer groups in school at Time 1. A total of 245 individual members belonging to 65 groups were included for statistical analyses using Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) procedure. Findings showed that after controlling for individual members' aggression at Time 1, individual members' aggression at Time 2 was positively and significantly associated with high-status peers' aggression at Time 1 rather than with low-status peers' aggression at Time 1. This pattern was found for both physical and social aggression. In terms of moderating effects of group-level factors, the association between individual members' physical aggression at Time 2 and high-status peers' physical aggression at Time 1 was found to be stronger in boys' groups than in girls' groups and stronger in a highly cohesive group than in a non-cohesive group. As to moderating effects of individual-level factors, the association between individual members' social aggression at Time 2 and high-status peers' social aggression at Time 1 was stronger for individuals with aggression-encouraging beliefs than for individuals with aggression-nonencouraging beliefs and stronger for low-status individuals than for high-status individuals. In summary, results from this study indicate that, in early adolescence, peers in a group differ in the strength of influences which varies across group and individual characteristics. These findings imply that future researchers should consider the variability in the strength of peer influences and in the openness of individuals to peer influences. In addition, special attention should be given to high-status aggressive youth in future prevention and intervention programs in order to reduce aggression and violence in school.
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