Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 45, Issue 9, pp 1836–1848 | Cite as

Status Differences in Target-Specific Prosocial Behavior and Aggression

  • Leanna M. Closson
  • Shelley Hymel
Empirical Research


Previous studies exploring the link between social status and behavior have predominantly utilized measures that do not provide information regarding toward whom aggression or prosocial behavior is directed. Using a contextualized target-specific approach, this study examined whether high- and low-status adolescents behave differently toward peers of varying levels of status. Participants, aged 11–15 (N = 426, 53 % females), completed measures assessing aggression and prosocial behavior toward each same-sex grademate. A distinct pattern of findings emerged regarding the likeability, popularity, and dominance status of adolescents and their peer targets. Popular adolescents reported more direct aggression, indirect aggression, and prosocial behavior toward popular peers than did unpopular adolescents. Well-accepted adolescents reported more prosocial behavior toward a wider variety of peers than did rejected adolescents. Finally, compared to subordinate adolescents, dominant adolescents reported greater direct and indirect aggression toward dominant than subordinate peers. The results highlight the importance of studying target-specific behavior to better understand the status-behavior link.


Aggression Prosocial behavior Likeability Popularity Dominance Early adolescence 



The authors are grateful for the support provided for this research from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council awarded to author Closson. We thank Dr. Bruno Zumbo for his assistance with statistical analyses on an earlier version of this manuscript. We also wish to thank the students, administrators, and schools who participated in this project.

Authors’ Contributions

LC conceived of the study, collected the data, performed analyses and interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript. SH was involved in the concept and design of the study, and helped draft the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.


Support was provided for this research from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council awarded to author Closson (Award No. 752-2008-1758).

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflict of interests.

Ethical Approval

Ethics approval for this research was issued by the Behavioural Research Ethics Board at the University of British Columbia (Certificate Number: H09-02294).

Informed Consent

Informed parental consent and child assent were obtained prior to data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySaint Mary’s UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special EducationUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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