Peer Influence on Academic Performance: A Social Network Analysis of Social-Emotional Intervention Effects


Longitudinal social network analysis (SNA) was used to examine how a social-emotional learning (SEL) intervention may be associated with peer socialization on academic performance. Fifth graders (N = 631; 48 % girls; 9 to 12 years) were recruited from six elementary schools. Intervention classrooms (14) received a relationship building intervention (RBI) and control classrooms (8) received elementary school as usual. At pre- and post-test, students nominated their friends, and teachers completed assessments of students’ writing and math performance. The results of longitudinal SNA suggested that the RBI was associated with friend selection and peer influence within the classroom peer network. Friendship choices were significantly more diverse (i.e., less evidence of social segregation as a function of ethnicity and academic ability) in intervention compared to control classrooms, and peer influence on improved writing and math performance was observed in RBI but not control classrooms. The current findings provide initial evidence that SEL interventions may change social processes in a classroom peer network and may break down barriers of social segregation and improve academic performance.

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Correspondence to Dawn DeLay.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


This research was supported by the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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DeLay, D., Zhang, L., Hanish, L.D. et al. Peer Influence on Academic Performance: A Social Network Analysis of Social-Emotional Intervention Effects. Prev Sci 17, 903–913 (2016).

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  • Social networks
  • Peer influence
  • Intervention
  • Social-emotional learning
  • Academic performance