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Researchers identify 12 social cliques and what they say about your standing in society

Researchers identify 12 social cliques and what they say about your standing in society

Researchers identify 12 social cliques and what they say about your standing in society

Researchers have identified 12 peer crowds and their positions in the social hierarchy.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have found that while many high school peer crowds and influences have remained constant over time, there are some new peer groups and perceptions emerging.

At the top of the social hierarchy are groups labeled “populars,” “jocks,” “floaters” and “good-ats.” In the middle the “fine arts” kids, who have risen in popularity compared with past studies, as well as the “brains,” “normals” and “druggie/stoners.” At the bottom of the social hierarchy are “emo/goths,” a new group of “anime/manga” fans and “loners.” Rachel Gordon, the principal investigator of the study, said that many of their observations aligned with prior research; however, they also noted new themes that are unique to modern day adolescent experiences: most notably that academic anxiety is on the rise.

The researchers observed that discussion about anxiety to meet parents’ expectations was “particularly novel,” especially for students described as “brains.” Gordon said the idea of stress related to academic performance was expected, but it was amplified when compared with prior studies. “Participants identified academic anxiety in more specific terms, even suggesting that students in the ‘brain’ peer crowd ‘were less mentally healthy’ due to a fear of upsetting their parents,” says Gordon, professor of sociology and a fellow of the Institute for Health Research and Policy at UIC.

The participants generally endorsed crowds that engaged in conventional activities valued by school and society, like getting good grades and participating in extracurricular activities, despite viewing “populars” and “jocks” negatively for their tendency to party and bully others. The “druggie/stoner” crowd was seen as gaining status by being in the orbit of these top crowds, due to supplying drugs for parties. Other groups were shaped by current events, popular culture and social media. Gordon highlighted three examples from the study:

  1. The emergence of the “anime/manga” peer crowd, which she said is a modern incarnation of a classic “computer geek” crowd that is likely promoted by a sharing of cultures on the Internet;
  2. The “emo/goth” crowd, who share with past decades a focus on countercultural behaviors, but focus on today’s music and aesthetics;
  3. The expressed fear of “loners” as potential perpetrators of violence, something that Gordon described as “new and unique to adolescents today.”

The researchers also observed the emergence of a “good-ats” crowd, whose members excelled across multiple domains. They also saw that the “fine arts” crowd was elevated in the social hierarchy, relative to previous studies. “Adolescent peer crowds play an important role in determining short-term and long-term life trajectories on social, educational and psychological fronts,” says Gordon. “Understanding how adolescents navigate their environments and perceive themselves and others can help us advance research in many areas, from how we can successfully promote healthy behaviours, such as anti-smoking or safe sex messages, to how we develop effective curriculums”.

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