Social Motives Underlying Antisocial Behavior Across Middle School Grades
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The goal of the study was to examine whether social motives (social mimicry, mutual attraction, and unreciprocated attraction) predict changes in antisocial behavior across middle school grades. The 2,003 initial participants (55% girls) were drawn from a larger longitudinal study of urban public school students: 44% Latino, 26% African-American, 10% Asian, 9% Caucasian, and 11% multiracial. Analyses of peer nominations and teacher-rated behavior included five waves of data between the fall of sixth grade and the spring of eighth grade (n = 1,260–1,347 for longitudinal analyses). Supporting the social mimicry hypothesis, students who associated peer-directed aggression with high social status in the beginning of middle school engaged in elevated levels of antisocial conduct during the second year in the new school. Additionally, unreciprocated attraction toward peers who bully others in the beginning of middle school was related to increased antisocial behavior in the last year of middle school. No support was obtained for the mutual attraction hypothesis. The findings provide insights about possible social motives underlying susceptibility to negative peer influence.
KeywordsAntisocial behavior Aggression Peers
This work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (BCS-9911525) and the William T. Grant Foundation (99100463) awarded to Sandra Graham and Jaana Juvonen. We thank Drs. Sandra Graham, Amy Bellmore, and Adrienne Nishina for their feedback on the earlier drafts of this article.
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