Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science




Dr. Lynne Zarbatany

Second Advisor

Dr. Xinyin Chen


Children’s peer groups influence individual behavior and attitudes through group normative influence, which previously has been assumed to affect all group members . . J. . equally. However, two competing theories suggest that group influence on members may not be uniform. Reciprocal socialization theorists posit that group members who interact with each other more frequently (i.e., central members) will be more influenced by group norms than those who interact less frequently (i.e., peripheral members) as a result of greater opportunity for mutual socialization. Social identity theorists posit that peripheral group members will be more influenced by group norms than central members because conformity to group norms will solidify their precarious group membership. The current study was the first to compare the predictions of these theories in the context of real peer groups (N = 376 children in 65 groups; Mage = 11.06 years, SD=1.38; 165 boys, 211 girls). A short-term longitudinal design was employed to assess within-group differences in peer group influence on aggression. Peer groups were identified using the well- established social-cognitive map procedure. Both self-reported attitudes about aggression and reports on behavioral aggression from self, peers, and teachers were collected at two time points separated by 6-7 months. Hierarchical linear modeling revealed that higher aggression was associated with peripheral status within the peer group, consistent with the social identity perspective. However, more favorable attitudes toward aggression were associated with central status within the peer group, but primarily in groups consisting mostly of girls, consistent with reciprocal socialization theory. These findings stress the importance of assessing the differential impact of group influence on individual 111 group members’ behavior and attitudes over time."



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