An Examination of Reciprocal Associations Between Social Preference, Popularity, and Friendship during Early Adolescence
Getting along with peers becomes increasingly important to health and well-being during early adolescence (10–14 years). Young adolescents may succeed with peers when they are well-liked by and popular among the larger peer group (or at the group-level of social complexity). They might also fare well with peers when they are able to form numerous mutual and high quality friendships (at the dyadic-level of social complexity). Theory emphasizes the interrelatedness of different types of peer experiences, but few longitudinal studies have examined the interplay among and between group- and dyadic-level peer experiences in the same study. As a result, it is not known whether group-level peer experiences are predictors of dyadic-level peer experiences, and/or vice versa. To address this limitation, this study examined the prospective and reciprocal relations between four indices of peer experiences, preference (or being highly liked and not disliked by peers), popularity (or having a reputation as popular), friendship quantity (or having many mutual friends), and friendship or relationship quality, during early adolescence. Participants were 271 adolescents (49% girls; Mage = 11.52 years) who completed peer nominations of preference and popularity, a self-report measure of friendship quality, and nominated friends at two waves (Wave 1: November, Grade 6; Wave 2: October, Grade 7). Structural equation modeling indicated that friendship quantity predicted increases in preference and popularity and that friendship quality predicted increases in friendship quantity. Initial popularity was associated with decreases in preference. The importance of these findings for future research is discussed along with study limitations.
KeywordsSocial preference Popularity Friendship Peers Early adolescence
The authors gratefully acknowledge the students, principals, teachers, and counselors who participated in this study and funding by NICHD (1R03 HD056524-01; PI: Julie Bowker). Jamie Ostrov is also acknowledged for his helpful comments on an earlier draft.
M.S. conceived of the study, performed statistical analyses, interpreted the data, and drafted the manuscript; J.B. participated in the design of the study, was involved in the collection of data, assisted in statistical analyses and interpretation of the data, and helped to revise the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Data Sharing Declaration
The dataset generated and analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the second author on reasonable request.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
This study was supported by a NICHD grant (1R03 HD056524-01) awarded to Julie Bowker. NICHD had no involvement in the study design, data collection, analyses, or interpretation of results. NICHD also had no involvement in the writing or submission of this manuscript.The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This study was approved by the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York Institutional Review Board (IRB).
Written parent consent and adolescent assent was obtained for all participants in the study.
- Asher, S. R., & McDonald, K. L. (2009). The behavioral basis of acceptance, rejection, and perceived popularity. In K. H. Rubin, W. Bukowski & B. Laursen (Eds.), Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups: Social, emotional, and personality development in context (pp. 232–248). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Brendgen, M., Little, T. D., & Krappmann, L. (2000). Rejected children and their friends: A shared evaluation of friendship quality? Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 46, 45–70.Google Scholar
- Bukowski, W. M., Pizzamiglio, M. T., Newcomb, A. F., & Hoza, B. (1996). Popularity as an affordance for friendship: The link between group and dyadic experience. Social Development, 5, 189–202. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9507.1996.tb00080.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Cillessen, A. H. N. (2009). Sociometric methods. In K. H. Rubin, W. M. Bukowski & B. Laursen (Eds.), Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups: Social, emotional, and personality development in context (pp. 82–99). New York: Guildford Press.Google Scholar
- Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
- Hinde, R. A. (1979). Towards understanding relationships. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.Google Scholar
- Hinde, R. A. (1987). Individuals, relationships and culture. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Kline, R. B. (2010). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (3rd ed.). New York: Guildford Press.Google Scholar
- Landsford, J. E., Putallaz, M., Grimes, C. L., Schiro-Osman, K. A., Kupersmidt, J. B., & Coie, J. D. (2006). Perceptions of friendship quality and observed behaviors with friends: How do sociometrically rejected, average, and popular girls differ? Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 52, 694–719.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Litwack, S. D., Aikins, J. W., & Cillessen, A. H. N. (2012). The distinct roles of sociometric and perceived popularity in friendship: Implications for adolescent depressive affect and self-esteem. Journal of Early Adolescence, 32, 226–251. https://doi.org/10.1177/0272431610387142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Markovic, A., & Bowker, J. C. (2017). Friends also matter: Examining friendship adjustment indices as moderators of anxious-withdrawal and trajectories of change in psychological maladjustment. Developmental Psychology, 53, 1462–1473. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0000343.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Muthén, L. K. & Muthén, B. O. (1998-2011). Mplus user’s guide. 6th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén. .Google Scholar
- Nangle, D. W., Erdley, C. A., Newman, J. E., Mason, C. A., & Carpenter, E. M. (2003). Popularity, friendship quantity, and friendship quality: Interactive influences on children’s loneliness and depression. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 32, 546–555. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15374424JCCP3204_7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Pearlin, L. I. (1983). Role strains and personal stress. In H. B. Kaplan (Ed.), Psychosocial stress: Trends in theory and research. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
- Poorthuis, A. M. G., Thomaes, S., Denissen, J. J. A., van Aken, M. A. G., & de Castro, B. O. (2012). Prosocial tendencies predict friendship quality, but not for popular children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 112, 378–388. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2012.04.002.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Rose, A. J., & Rudolph, K. D. (2006). A review of sex differences in peer relationship processes: Potential trade-offs for the emotional and behavioral development of girls and boys. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 98–131. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.132.1.98.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Rubin, K. H., Bukowski, W. M., & Bowker, J. C. (2015). Children in peer groups. In M. Guha (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology and developmental science: vol. 4. Ecological settings and processes (7th ed.). (pp. 321–412). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.Google Scholar
- Rubin, K. H., Bukowski, W. M., & Parker, J. G. (2006). Peer interactions, relationships, and groups. In N. Eisenberg, W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Social, emotional, and personality development (6th ed.). (pp. 571–645). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.Google Scholar
- Sullivan, H. S. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York, NY: Norton.Google Scholar