Murphy, James (2019). Secondhand Closure: Adolescent Peer Groups and Belonging in School. Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
New York, NY.
Structural analyses of adolescent friendship networks in schools typically focus on two levels: an immediate circle of friends (the personal or egocentric network) and the entire student body (the global network). I argue for the importance of network closure in an intermediate structure, the peer group (“neighbor network”) consisting of friends and friends-of-friends. Specifically, I argue that higher levels of peer group closure can contribute positively to feeling of belonging in school even after accounting for egocentric closure. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, I demonstrate that peer group density is positively associated with students’ feelings of belonging and is at least as strong a predictor of belonging as egocentric density. Peer group density’s association with belonging is stronger the more friends a student names in their egocentric network, suggesting that as students face increasing personal demands to maintain friendships, peer group closure takes on increased importance. The hypotheses are only supported for students whose peers report usually getting along with teachers and other students in the school. I find no evidence of differences in these patterns between girls and boys.
Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association
City of Publication
New York, NY