Keeping Friends Close and Enemies Closer: The Importance of Group Processes in Contributing to the Maintenance of Peer Victimizations

Nancy Darling, The Pennsylvania State University
Ryan K. Williams, Pennsylvania State University

The literature on sociometric status suggests that aggressive adolescents are rejected by peers. In contrast, literature on peer victimization suggests that aggressive adolescents are often nominated by peers as being well liked and leaders. Recent work has also emphasized that many adolescent victimizers are victimized themselves. This study tries to reconcile these inconsistent views of aggressive adolescents by examining variability in the perception of peers by people who differ in sociometric statuses: Do different types of adolescents describe their peers in the same way? Specifically, we examine nominations for best and least liked, aggression, leadership and helpfulness by sociometric status of nominator and nominee. Using data collected from 6th-8th graders in the Cornell Social Networks Survey (N-579), preliminary analyses reveal that children of almost all status groups choose Popular children as most liked and helpful and Rejected children as disliked and aggressive. One main exception is that Neglected children are more likely to perceive Controversial children, rather than Rejected children, as most disliked and aggressive. Further analyses will examine values and perceptions of acceptable behavior among self and peer group in order to gain further insight into these variations and to help highlight the importance of group processes in causing and maintaining peer rejection and victimization.

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Updated 05/20/2006