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Belonging, conformity and social status in early adolescence Grinman, Mariana

Abstract

As social beings, humans share a fundamental need to belong (Maslow, 1970; Baumeister & Leary, 1995); a question that arises is how does this need affect social behaviour? This study examined whether peer-rated acceptance and feelings of belonging were associated with one's willingness to conform to antisocial and neutral peer activities. In a single group-testing session, students in grades 5-7 (172 girls, 180 boys) provided background information, and completed sociometric measures of peer acceptance as well as self-report measures of belonging and peer conformity. Results indicated significant ethnic differences in both early adolescents' sense of belonging and in their willingness to accede to peer pressures that called for antisocial (but not neutral) behaviour. Asian and Indo-Canadian students reported less willingness to acquiesce to antisocial activities than Caucasian students. A significant relationship was also found between grade and conformity to antisocial activities, with older students reporting a greater willingness to conform than younger participants. Consistent with previous research (Connor, 2001; Hayden, 1989), more accepted early adolescents reported significantly greater feelings of belonging than their less accepted peers. There was also a significant but moderate relationship between neutral and antisocial forms of conformity - participants who were more willing to conform to pressures for neutral behaviours were also more willing to acquiesce to pressures for antisocial behaviour. Contrary to hypotheses, no significant relations were observed between acceptance and conformity to antisocial or neutral peer pressures. For males, there was no significant relationship between belonging and conformity to antisocial or neutral pressures. However, females' sense of belonging predicted some of the variance in their willingness to follow peers in neutral but not antisocial types of activities. Female participants who reported a greater sense of belonging were more willing to follow peers in neutral activities.

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