The Evolution of Youth Friendship Networks from 6th to 12th Grade: School Transitions, Popularity and Centrality

  • Diane H. FelmleeEmail author
  • Cassie McMillan
  • Paulina Inara Rodis
  • D. Wayne Osgood
Part of the Frontiers in Sociology and Social Research book series (FSSR, volume 2)


This chapter examines adolescents’ friendship patterns from 6th through 12th grade, and investigates the impact on friendship networks of two transitions in the institutionalized life course, one from elementary to middle school and the other from middle to high school. Using information from 51 networks in 26 school districts, this study considers data from 13,214 students (PROSPER). Findings show that adolescent popularity and centrality tend to reach their maximum in early adolescence and then consistently decline until 12th grade. Results also demonstrate that both school transitions propel the process of declining centrality, by exacerbating the negative consequences to individual centrality. Furthermore, students who transition between 8th and 9th grade experience declines in social integration that persist until the end of high school. Thus, during the period of adolescence, people become less popular and are known by fewer people over time, and school transitions magnify these potentially problematic trends.


Adolescents Friendships Social networks PROSPER Sociometric popularity Centrality Social network indegree School transitions Middle school transition Junior high transition High school transition 



The authors thank Duane Alwin and David Johnson for helpful comments on our work. This research was supported in part by the W.T. Grant Foundation (8316) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (RO1-DA08225; T32-DA-017629; F31-DA-024497), and uses data from PROSPER, a project directed by R. L. Spoth and funded by grant RO1-DA013709 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Support also came from the Pennsylvania State University and the National Science Foundation under an IGERT award # DGE-1144860, Big Data Social Science.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diane H. Felmlee
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cassie McMillan
    • 1
  • Paulina Inara Rodis
    • 1
  • D. Wayne Osgood
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology and CriminologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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