Sociometric Peer Status

A teen’s status among their peers will influence their membership in peer groups and their ability to make friends. Sociometric status is a measurement that reflects the degree to which someone is liked or disliked by their peers as a group. In developmental psychology, this system has been used to examine children's status in peer groups, its stability over time, the characteristics that determine it, and the long-term implications of one's popularity or rejection by peers.

The most commonly used sociometric system, developed by Coie & Dodge (1988), asks children to rate how much they like or dislike each of their classmates and uses these responses to classify them into five groups.

Figure 11.3.1. Sociometric peer statuses.

Popular adolescents are those liked by many of their peers and disliked by few. These individuals are skilled at social interactions and maintain positive peer relationships. They tend to be cooperative, friendly, sociable, and sensitive to others. They are capable of being assertive without being aggressive, thus can get what they want without harming others. Among this group, there may be distinct levels of popularity:

  • Accepted teens are the most common sub-group among the popular. While they are generally well-liked, they are not as magnetic as the very popular kids.
  • Very popular teens are highly charismatic and draw peers to them.


Rejected teens are designated as rejected if they receive many negative nominations and few positive nominations. These individuals often have poor academic performance and more behavior problems in school. They are also at higher risk for delinquent behaviors and legal problems. These kids are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, conduct disorder, and substance abuse. They tend to be isolated, lonely and are at risk for depression. Rejected youth can be categorized into two types:

  • Aggressive-rejected teens display hostile and threatening behavior, are physically aggressive, and disruptive. They may bully others, withhold friendship, ignore and exclude others. While they are lacking, they tend to overestimate their social competence.
  • Withdrawn-rejected teens are socially withdrawn, wary, timid, anxious in social situations, and lack confidence. They are at risk of being bullied.


Individuals that are liked by many peers, but also dislike by many are designated as controversial. This group may possess characteristics of both the popular and the rejected group. These individuals tend to be aggressive, disruptive, and prone to anger. However, they may also be cooperative and social. They are often socially active and a good group leader. Their peers often view them as arrogant and snobbish.

The neglected teens are designated as neglected if they receive few positive or negative nominations. These children are not especially liked or disliked by peers and tend to go unnoticed. As a result, they may be isolated and especially avoid confrontation or aggressive interactions. This group does tend to do well academically.

Finally, the average teens are designated as such because they receive an average number of both positive and negative nominations. They are liked by a small group of peers, but not disliked by very many.

Figure 11.3.2. Sociometric peer statuses and characteristics.

Popularity

What makes an adolescent popular? Several physical, cognitive, and behavioral factors impact popularity. First, adolescents that are perceived to be physically attractive tend to be more popular among their peers. Cognitive traits matter too. Individuals that demonstrate higher intelligence and do well academically tend to be more liked. Also, those that can take another’s perspective and demonstrate social problem-solving skills are favored. Teens that can manage their emotions and behave appropriately gain higher status. Finally, teens like peers that are confident without being conceited.

Interventions

What can be done to help those adolescents that are not well-liked? For neglected teens, social skills training and encouraging them to join activities can help them become noticed by their peers and make friends. For rejected teens, they may need support to help with anger management, to overcome anxiety, and cope with depression. This group can also benefit from social skills training to learn social competence and gain confidence.

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