Adolescent Peer Groups and Social Identity

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This study investigated processes by which adolescents form positive evaluations of their peer groups. One-hundred and fifteen male and female adolescents aged 14–15 years made a series of comparisons between their own peer group (the ingroup) and a group of which they were not a member (the outgroup). In line with the predictions of social identity theory (Tajfel and Turner, 1979), participants behaved consistently in ways which favoured the ingroup: compared to the outgroup, the ingroup was associated to a greater extent with positive characteristics (e.g. being fun, nice, and honest) and to a lesser extent with negative characteristics (e.g. being ignorant, unfriendly, and boring). Their responses were also related to levels of identification with the ingroup: at higher levels of identification participants reported more favourable evaluations of their groups. These findings extend earlier research and show how the benefits derived from group membership in adolescence are in part realised through intergroup processes.

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