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Do Academically-Engaged Adolescents Experience Social Sanctions From the Peer Group?

NCJ Number
Journal of Youth and Adolescence Volume: 42 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2013 Pages: 1319-1330
David Schwartz; Brynn M. Kelly; Mylien T. Duong
Date Published
September 2013
12 pages
This study examined the peer group correlates of achievement for adolescents attending high school in an urban area that was characterized by a moderate degree of economic distress.
Existing theoretical perspectives suggest that adolescents who are characterized by high achievement may experience social sanctions from peers. The central premise is that, in many North American settings, adolescent peer groups are characterized by negative attitudes toward the school environment. To test these hypotheses, the authors examined associations between indicators of low social power (unpopularity and victimization by peers) and academic competence for 415 adolescents (193 boys; 222 girls) attending an urban high school. This school served neighborhoods that were characterized by a moderate degree of economic distress and the students were predominately of Hispanic American descent. A short-term longitudinal design was used, with two waves of data collected over consecutive school years. The adolescents completed a peer nomination inventory assessing relational and overt victimization by peers, unpopularity, and social rejection. In addition, the authors obtained math and language arts grades from school records, and they assessed behavioral engagement in school with a self-report inventory. Structural equation models did not reveal a strong pattern of longitudinal change in social standing with peers or academic functioning. However, the authors found positive correlations between academic achievement and problematic peer relationships in both years of the project. The authors also found evidence that gender moderates these associations, with the effects reaching significance only for boys. The results provide evidence that, in some settings, high achieving adolescents can be prone to negative treatment or marginalization by peers. Abstract published by arrangement with Springer.