Cliques and self-reported friendship groups among third through fifth grade students
Lutz, Mary Esther
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The primary emphasis of this two-study dissertation was to examine the function of peer group membership in children’s social-emotional adjustment during middle childhood. Each study was conducted using data from a sample of 455 third through fifth grade students attending four elementary schools in the Southeastern United States. Study one investigated the agreement between two common methods used to assess group membership among children, the self-reported friendship group (SRFG) and peer-reported cliques derived through Social Cognitive Maps (clique). Further, study one assessed whether children’s perceptions of their friendship group characteristics correspond with the characteristics of the SRFG or the clique more closely. Results from this study indicate that the SRFG and clique provide complimentary information when used in combination. Study two of this dissertation examined the goodness-of-fit between elementary-aged children and their group of friends. Specifically, this study investigated whether group norms moderated the relation between personal characteristics of the child (i.e., personality and behavior motivation) and their self-reported feelings of social identification with the peer group. Consistent with a goodness-of-fit model, results indicated that for some behavioral domains (misbehavior, boyfriend/girlfriend relations, and trends), the fit between children’s personal characteristics and the characteristics of their group significantly predict children’s feelings of social identity, above and beyond the variance explained by personal or group characteristics alone. Together, the findings of these two studies contribute to the peer relations literature by expanding our understanding of peer group assessment techniques and by identifying important predictors of social identity.