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Peer status and behavioural reputation amongst preadolescent girls in existing and new peer groups

Tidman, Marjorie Rose (1990) Peer status and behavioural reputation amongst preadolescent girls in existing and new peer groups. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The formation and maintenance of behavioural reputations and peer status during preadolescence have been studied predominantly with boys. In this thesis, qualitative and quantitative methods of research have been employed to examine the individual and group processes involved in the formation and maintenance of preadolescent girls' behavioural reputations and peer status. The research was designed to capture the emergence of social identities and so children were studied across transitions from established peer groups to new peer groups. Two naturalistic longitudinal case studies of low-status girls provided qualitative data on the complex interplay of individual and group processes that influence changing social identities. An experimentally contrived newgroup study explored in more detail the issues raised in the naturalistic case studies.

Nine new peer groups were formed, each group containing three girls, previously identified as 'high-status sociable', 'low-status disruptive' and low-status withdrawn', from separate schools. In the existing peer groups, girls' self-perceptions of social identity, their anticipations of meeting unfamiliar peers, their social inferences about behavioural reputations, and the cohesion and membership profiles of their social groups, were measured. In the new peer groups, measures were taken of girls' emerging behaviour, reputation and status.

Although adult coders detected no behavioural differences between girls of the three 'status and behavioural-reputation' profiles, all girls replicated their profiles in new peer groups. The social information processing data suggests that preadolescent girls are able to infer accurately behavioural reputations given limited social information about unfamiliar peers. Furthermore, girls are aware of their peer status in their existing peer groups and aware of their behavioural reputations in new peer groups. This pattern of data suggests that girls' social identities are mediating the new group outcomes. The analyses of girls' existing social groups reveal also, that high-status girls are members of more cohesive social groups than low-status girls, and that girls belong to social groups with members of similar 'status and behavioural-reputation' profiles. These results suggest that preadolescent girls' existing social groups vary in 'risk' as environments which maintain different social identities.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Renshaw, Peter
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