Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 47, Issue 9, pp 1830–1841 | Cite as

An Examination of Reciprocal Associations Between Social Preference, Popularity, and Friendship during Early Adolescence

  • Miriam T. Stotsky
  • Julie C. Bowker
Empirical Research


Getting along with peers becomes increasingly important to health and well-being during early adolescence (10–14 years). Young adolescents may succeed with peers when they are well-liked by and popular among the larger peer group (or at the group-level of social complexity). They might also fare well with peers when they are able to form numerous mutual and high quality friendships (at the dyadic-level of social complexity). Theory emphasizes the interrelatedness of different types of peer experiences, but few longitudinal studies have examined the interplay among and between group- and dyadic-level peer experiences in the same study. As a result, it is not known whether group-level peer experiences are predictors of dyadic-level peer experiences, and/or vice versa. To address this limitation, this study examined the prospective and reciprocal relations between four indices of peer experiences, preference (or being highly liked and not disliked by peers), popularity (or having a reputation as popular), friendship quantity (or having many mutual friends), and friendship or relationship quality, during early adolescence. Participants were 271 adolescents (49% girls; Mage = 11.52 years) who completed peer nominations of preference and popularity, a self-report measure of friendship quality, and nominated friends at two waves (Wave 1: November, Grade 6; Wave 2: October, Grade 7). Structural equation modeling indicated that friendship quantity predicted increases in preference and popularity and that friendship quality predicted increases in friendship quantity. Initial popularity was associated with decreases in preference. The importance of these findings for future research is discussed along with study limitations.


Social preference Popularity Friendship Peers Early adolescence 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the students, principals, teachers, and counselors who participated in this study and funding by NICHD (1R03 HD056524-01; PI: Julie Bowker). Jamie Ostrov is also acknowledged for his helpful comments on an earlier draft.

Authors’ Contributions

M.S. conceived of the study, performed statistical analyses, interpreted the data, and drafted the manuscript; J.B. participated in the design of the study, was involved in the collection of data, assisted in statistical analyses and interpretation of the data, and helped to revise the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Data Sharing Declaration

The dataset generated and analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the second author on reasonable request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

This study was supported by a NICHD grant (1R03 HD056524-01) awarded to Julie Bowker. NICHD had no involvement in the study design, data collection, analyses, or interpretation of results. NICHD also had no involvement in the writing or submission of this manuscript.The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This study was approved by the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Informed Consent

Written parent consent and adolescent assent was obtained for all participants in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity at Buffalo, The State University of New YorkBuffaloUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity at Buffalo, The State University of New YorkBuffaloUSA

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