Children's Social Constructions of Popularity

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Children's social constructions of popularity were assessed with perceived popularity nominations (i.e., ‘Who are the most [least] popular students?’) in a sample of 487 fourth, fifth, and sixth grade elementary school students. Correlational and group-difference analyses demonstrated that perceived popularity is moderately and positively related to sociometric popularity and social dominance. Perceived popular girls were viewed as prosocial, bright, and in possession of the expressive equipment of popularity (i.e., attractiveness and spending power); perceived popular girls who were not well-liked (i.e., sociometrically popular) had these characteristics as well but also were above-average (> .5 SD) on social aggression and social visibility (i.e., cool and athletic). Perceived popular boys were reported to be socially visible (i.e., cool and athletic) and with low levels of social withdrawal; perceived popular boys who were not well-liked had these characteristics but also were reported to be socially aggressive, attractive, and to possess spending power. Finally, group comparisons revealed that perceived popularity, either alone or in combination with sociometric popularity, is accompanied by more social prerogatives (i.e., admiration, leadership, social control) than sociometric popularity alone. It was argued that being perceived as popular is a key determinant of social power in peer groups of older elementary school students.

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