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A Gender Prototypicality Theory of Adolescent Peer Popularity

  • Lara MayeuxEmail author
  • Margaret Kleiser
Narrative Review

Abstract

Despite its salience to adolescents and its relevance for behavioral adjustment, there are few theories explaining the development of peer popularity. In this article, the authors present a gender prototypicality theory of the development of popularity. Popularity refers to social visibility, power, and prestige among peers. Gender prototypicality theory argues that popularity as a distinct form of peer status emerges at the transition to adolescence, as a byproduct of intensifying cross-sex peer interactions and competition for opposite-sex attention as romantic development intensifies. The theory further argues that popularity will be ascribed disproportionately to young adolescents who conform to gender-typical roles in appearance, behavior, and other features, as these youth are more likely to attract the opposite-sex attention that contributes to social status among peers. Given the salience of emerging romantic interactions at this developmental period, adolescents who are leading the way in spending time with the opposite sex are likely to garner considerable attention from peers. This confluence of events begins the process of consolidation of social power into a relatively small proportion of the peer group.

Keywords

Popularity Gender Peer relations 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge Amy Bellmore and Molly O’Mealey for their helpful feedback on an earlier draft of this manuscript, as well as the comments of two anonymous reviewers.

Authors’ Contributions

LM conceived of the theory presented here and drafted the manuscript; MK contributed to the development of the theory and helped to draft the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA

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