Presentation on theme: "Recognizing and enhancing positive peer influence processes Scott D. Gest Pennsylvania State University October 24, 2011 Forward Thinking: Preparing Youth."— Presentation transcript:
Recognizing and enhancing positive peer influence processes Scott D. Gest Pennsylvania State University October 24, 2011 Forward Thinking: Preparing Youth for the Coming World Youth-Nex Conference, University of Virginia
Peer Relationships A context in which “problems” occur ◦ Bullying/victimization; delinquency; substance use A source of negative influence ◦ “peer pressure” OR A context in which important skills & values develop ◦ Relationship skills, identity, social values A source of positive support & influence ◦ Emotional support, encouragement for positive aspirations How do we help key adults recognize, support and enhance the latter while acknowledging the possibility of the former?
Some peer influence processes Direct social interaction ◦ social learning, evaluative feedback, persuasion, resource control Resource exchange (Thibaut & Kelly, 1959) ◦ Differential roles/status, pressure for conformity Social comparison (Festinger, 1954) ◦ Peer selection, emergence of shared norms Influences from outside group (Brewer & Miller, 1996; Brown, 1999) ◦ Stereotypes & differentiation Structural balance (Heider, 1946) ◦ Formation and dissolution of ties (selection) Individual status ◦ “impact” (# of ties) vs. “topological” (patterning of ties)
Friendship & Peer Victimization 5-year longitudinal study of 450 youth across transition to middle school ◦ Support from NSF & Penn State ◦ Key graduate students: Kelly Rulison, Alice Davidson, Lauren Molloy, Deborah Temkin Patterns of friendship and victimization across first two years of middle school ◦ Fall & Spring of 6 th & 7 th grades ◦ Peer-nominated victimization; reports of friendship Hypothesized dynamics ◦ Having friends prevents victimization ◦ Being friends with a victim puts one at risk for victimization ◦ Victims lose their friends over time
Results Analyses provided support for all three patterns ◦ Logistic regressions; dynamic network models Implications ◦ Prevention strategy: promote friendships for all youth ◦ “Treatment” strategy: stop the bullying, then promote victim’s social integration Challenges for teachers and school personnel ◦ Mediocre at identifying children’s friendships and bullying situations ◦ Little evidence on how to “engineer” friendships Current research aims to clarify how teachers learn about friendships and bullying/victimization, and how teaching practices may influence both dynamics
Substance Use Prevention & Friendship Networks PROSPER community-level randomized control trial of evidence-based prevention ◦ Core study funded by NIDA (Spoth & Greenberg) ◦ Additional funding for peer network analysis from NIDA and William T. Grant Foundation (Wayne Osgood, PI; Mark Feinberg, Jim Moody, Derek Kreager) 11,000 youth in 54 community-cohorts surveyed 5 times from 6 th to 9 th grades ◦ 6 th grade: Family-focused intervention ◦ 7 th grade: school-based intervention How did these prevention programs impact the friendship networks?
Prevention program impact on friendship networks Many programs target individual behaviors and norms ◦ Reduce appeal of choosing friends who use ◦ Increase resistance to peer influence to use Potential impact on behavioral norms? “Problem” associated with less central position in network. Norms support positive behavior. “Problem” associated with more central position in network. Norms support problem behavior.
Conclusions Challenges for adults who want to support youths’ positive peer relationships ◦ not very good at recognizing youths’ important peer relationships ◦ mostly improvising in trying to foster friendships in naturalistic settings little evidence on what works ◦ Intervention efforts fall into the familiar trap of framing peer influence as negative Important directions for research & intervention ◦ Help adults become aware of peer relationship dynamics ◦ Learn from what some adults do successfully ◦ Broaden intervention efforts to recognize, emphasize and enhance positive peer influences
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