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Middle school peer reputation in high-achieving schools: Ramifications for maladjustment versus competence by age 18



In an upper-middle class setting, we explored associations between students’ peer reputation in Grades 6 and 7 with adjustment at Grade 12. With a sample of 209 students, a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) of peer reputation dimensions supported a 4-factor model (i.e., popular, prosocial, aggressive, isolated). Structural equation models were used to examine prospective links between middle school peer reputation and diverse Grade 12 adjustment indices, including academic achievement (Scholastic Aptitude Test scores and grade point average), internalizing and externalizing symptoms, and use of cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana. Prosocial reputation was connected to higher academic achievement levels and fewer externalizing symptoms. Both prosocial and isolated reputations were negatively associated with dimensions of substance use, whereas popularity was positively associated. Implications for future research and interventions are discussed.
Middle School Peer Reputation in High-achieving Schools:
Ramifications for Maladjustment versus Competence by Age 18
Alexandria S. Curlee, Leona S. Aiken, and Suniya S. Luthar
Arizona State University
Curlee, A., Aiken, L., & Luthar, S. (2018). Middle school peer reputation in high-achieving
schools: Ramifications for maladjustment versus competence by age 18. Development and
Psychopathology, 1-15. doi:10.1017/S0954579418000275
Author Note
Alexandria S. Curlee, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University; Leona S.
Aiken, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University; Suniya S. Luthar, Department of
Psychology, Arizona State University
This research was supported by NIH grant DA014385. We are grateful to the children
and families who have participated in this research, and thank Yu Liu, Department of
Psychological, Health, and Learning Sciences, University of Houston, for her assistance with the
quantitative modeling.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Suniya S. Luthar,
Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, 950 S. McAllister Ave, Tempe, AZ 85287-
1104. Phone number: 480-965-7598. E-mail:
Short title: Peer Reputation and Future Adjustment
In an upper-middle class setting, we explored associations between students’ peer reputation in
the 6th and 7th grades with adjustment at 12th grade. With a sample of 209 students, a confirmatory
factor analysis of peer reputation dimensions supported a four-factor model, i.e., popular,
prosocial, aggressive, isolated. Structural equation models were used to examine prospective
links between middle school peer reputation and diverse 12th grade adjustment indices, including
academic achievement (SAT scores and GPA), internalizing and externalizing symptoms, and use
of cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana. Prosocial reputation was connected to higher academic
achievement levels and fewer externalizing symptoms. Both prosocial and isolated reputations
were negatively associated with dimensions of substance use, whereas popularity was positively
associated. Implications for future research and interventions are discussed.
Keywords: peer reputation, prosocial, longitudinal, substance use, adolescence
The central question addressed in this study is as follows: Among youth in upper-middle
class communities, might dimensions of negative and positive peer reputation, measured through
peer nominations in middle school, be significantly related to adjustment at the end of high
school? In view of the strong influence of peers during adolescence, we aimed to investigate
long-term associations of peer reputation in middle school with academic outcomes (both GPA
and standardized SAT scores), internalizing and externalizing symptoms, and substance use
(alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use) in late adolescence in a sample of relatively affluent
youth. Peer reputation was characterized on four dimensions: popular, prosocial, aggressive, and
isolated. Specific positive versus negative associations, characterized below, were expected
between individual dimensions assessed in middle school and outcomes fully six years later.
Our focus on this group stems from the perception that “privileged” youth attending high-
achieving schools should generally be well adjusted; the greater social support, more material
resources, and high-quality education associated with higher socioeconomic status would place
them on a positive developmental path (Bradley & Corwyn, 2002). However, by adolescence,
this demographic of teens exhibits high externalizing symptoms and elevated rates of substance
use compared to national norms (for reviews, see Luthar, Barkin, & Crossman, 2013; Luthar &
Kumar, in press). The quality of their peer reputations may relate to adjustment over time,
including academic achievement, psychopathology, and substance use.
Peer Relationships and Reputation
Peer influence on adolescents’ behavior may occur through both interaction with and
observation of other youth. Through social learning, teens develop beliefs about normative peer
behavior and adjust their conduct to align with age-group members (Gardner & Steinberg, 2005).
In smaller peer sets, youth take on specific in-group norms, and as part of group membership, are
labeled by their peers with certain reputations (Rubin, Coplan, Chen, Buskirk, & Wojslawowicz,
2005). Youth also self-select into groups based on reputation, reinforcing their beliefs and
behaviors through shared group norms (Chung-Hall & Chen, 2010). Regardless of selection or
socialization, social identity theory states that group membership plays a role in identity
development and subsequent behaviors (Barber, Stone, Hunt, & Eccles, 2005), with far-reaching
effects on adjustment. Thus, peer reputation merits examination in terms of future functioning.
Middle School Peer Reputation
The impact of peer reputation may be particularly important in middle school, a time
when youth begin to place more importance on the evaluations of peers rather than parents
(Rosenberg, 1979). As part of this process, youth invest in earning and maintaining a positive
peer reputation, often desiring to be seen as popular (Cillessen, Schwartz, & Mayeux, 2011). The
acquisition of particular types of peer reputation may in turn have significant ramifications for
adjustment over time.
For youth in high-achieving schools, reputation may be especially influential given
increased social competition. Adolescents with parents of relatively high socioeconomic status
have been found to have greater competitiveness and peer envy than adolescents with parents of
middle or low socioeconomic status (Luthar & Kumar, in press; Buunk, Stulp, & Ormel, 2014).
One possibility is that adults with high socioeconomic status may pass on to their children an
emphasis on extrinsic values such as status (Ciciolla, Curlee, Karageorge, & Luthar, 2016) that
could enhance their children’s pressure to succeed socially.
Measuring Peer Reputation
Peer reputation, based on classmate nominations along multiple dimensions (e.g.,
aggressiveness, isolation), reflects a young person’s social behaviors, characteristics, and
influence among peers (Gest, Sesma, Masten, & Tellegen, 2006). Peer reputation is distinct from
sociometric status (i.e., whether the child is liked or disliked) assessed by nominations from
classmates for “liked most” and “liked least” (Prinstein & La Greca, 2004). Put another way,
peer reputation consists of the major behavioral profiles, both negative and positive, that tend to
define an individual in the eyes of peers (Prinstein, 2007). Behavioral profiles as peer reputations
are useful in capturing peer concepts such as perceived popularity (Rubin et al., 2005).
Peer reputation has commonly been measured by the Revised Class Play (RCP; Masten,
Morison, & Pellegrini, 1985), wherein students place their classmates into different roles for a
play which they are directing. The roles map onto specific attributes that underlie dimensions of
peer reputation. Peer nominations for the RCP roles typically reveal four dimensions: popular,
prosocial, aggressive, and isolated. The first two are sometimes combined into one positive
reputation labeled sociability-leader (Obradović, Burt & Masten, 2009; Gest et al., 2006; Masten
et al., 1985). Zeller, Vannatta, Schafer, and Noll (2003) explored the psychometric properties of
the RCP across elementary, middle, and high school students, finding a four-factor model to be a
reliable and valid way to evaluate behavioral reputation across all age ranges (see also Luthar &
McMahon, 1996).
Popular reputation describes youth who are socially central and prominent among their
peers, reflected in RCP roles “everyone likes to be with” and “makes new friends easily.” In
contrast, a prosocial reputation is characterized by friendliness, trustworthiness, and helpfulness
as reflected in roles “helps others when they need it” and “polite” (Zeller et al., 2003). The
aggressive, or aggressive-disruptive reputation, encompasses hostile and antisocial behavior
exemplified in roles “gets into a lot of fights” and “teases other children too much.” Lastly, an
isolated reputation represents youth who interact rarely with peers as illustrated by the roles “has
trouble making friends” and “often left out” (Gest et al. 2006; Masten et al., 1985).
Each peer reputation relates to personal and behavioral adjustment concurrently and over
time among low- and middle-socioeconomic status youth, including academic achievement,
internalizing and externalizing symptoms, and more rarely studied substance use. Both person-
oriented and variable-oriented approaches are used to establish reputation-outcome linkages
(Luthar & McMahon, 1996). The variable-oriented strategy predominates in studies linking the
RCP to outcomes considered here. Finally, we note that with two exceptions (Becker & Luthar,
2007; Luthar & D’Avanzo, 1999), the literature reviewed here is based on samples of students in
low and middle socioeconomic status communities.
Prosocial Peer Reputation and Adjustment
Prosocial is the least understood peer reputation, partly because prosocial reputation is
separated from popular reputation in only some research. On its own, high prosocial reputation is
associated with positive adjustment indices such as relatively low externalizing symptoms (Gest
et al., 2006; Luthar, 1995). High prosocial reputation longitudinally predicts the highest teacher
ratings of adaptive functioning among the four common RCP peer reputations (Realmuto,
August, & Hektner, 2000), as well as better academic and romantic outcomes later in life (Gest et
al., 2006). The scant research linking prosocial reputation to substance use shows a negative
relationship (Carlo, Crockett, Wilkinson, & Beal, 2011).
In this sample, we predicted that youth with higher prosocial scores would exhibit
positive outcomes in high school. These outcomes included low levels of internalizing and
externalizing symptoms, high academic achievement, and infrequent substance use over time.
Popular Peer Reputation and Adjustment
Popular reputation, or perceived popularity as distinct from likeability, has gained recent
attention. Beyond RCP popular reputation, popularity is measured by peer nominations of “most
popular” and “least popular” (e.g., Mayeux, Sandstrom, & Cillessen, 2008). Unlike likeability,
popularity is associated with both positive and negative traits (Cillessen & Mayeux, 2004). On
the one hand, youth with popular reputations thrive as well-adjusted individuals, manifesting
relatively high social and romantic competence in longitudinal research (Gest et al., 2006).
Similarly, popular reputation among 9th grade students predicted lower internalizing symptoms
over time (Luthar, 1995). On the other hand, popular reputation has also been linked to negative
outcomes. Among elementary and middle school children, popular reputation was positively
associated with externalizing symptoms (Gest et al., 2006), and a sociable reputation among high
school youth was associated with academic declines over a six-month period (Luthar, 1995).
Moreover, youth who use substances in middle school are more likely to be rated as popular by
their peers (Killeya-Jones, Nakajima, & Costanzo, 2007), and peer-perceived popularity
positively predicts alcohol use (Guyll, Madon, Spoth, & Lannin, 2014; Mayeux, et al., 2008).
Further distinguishing popularity from likability are positive associations between
popularity and both aggression and deviant behavior (López-Romero & Romero, 2010;
Sandstrom & Cillessen, 2006). Perceived popularity in high school has been linked to high-risk
behaviors in emerging adulthood, including drug use and sexual behavior (Sandstrom &
Cillessen, 2010). Popularity also exhibits positive longitudinal bidirectional relationships with
both physical and relational aggression (Cillessen & Borch, 2006; Cillessen & Mayeux, 2004).
For popular youth, aggressive behaviors may be useful during adolescence with decreased
effectiveness as they age (Cillessen & Rose, 2005).
In affluent communities, popular youth tend to be particularly prone to high substance
use, reporting higher rates of alcohol, marijuana, and illicit drug use compared to national norms
and compared to inner-city youth (Luthar & D’Avanzo, 1999). Elevated rates of use have been
replicated across several samples from relatively affluent schools (Coley, Sims, Dearing, &
Spielvogel, 2017; Lund, Dearing, & Zachrisson, 2017; Luthar & Barkin, 2012). Within the
context of affluence, these elevated rates may be connected to ease in acquiring substances along
with a desire for peer approval. Indeed, peer-perceived popularity has been associated with
substance use in boys in affluent, suburban communities (Becker & Luthar, 2007; Luthar &
D’Avanzo, 1999).
In this study, we predicted negative associations of popular reputation with academic
success and internalizing symptoms. Conversely, we predicted positive associations of popular
reputation with substance use and externalizing symptoms.
Aggressive Peer Reputation and Adjustment
Most studies positively link aggressive reputations with elevated maladjustment, not
surprisingly, given that aggression is an externalizing behavior (Reef, Diamantopoulou, van
Meurs, Verhulst, & van der Ende, 2011). Peer-nominated aggressive reputation predicted teacher-
rated low competence (Yang, Chen, & Wang, 2014), as well as teacher-reported elevated
externalizing symptoms four years later (Realmuto et al., 2000). Childhood aggressive reputation
predicted externalizing symptoms, worse academic achievement, and lower job competence 10
years later (Gest et al., 2006; Morison & Masten, 1991).
Few studies have explored the relationship between aggressive reputation and substance
use. Peer-reported aggressive reputation in pre-adolescent girls predicted cigarette use, heavy
episodic drinking, and marijuana use in late adolescence (Prinstein & La Greca, 2004). This is
consistent with evidence that teacher-, parent- and self-reported childhood aggression are each
linked with later substance use (Jester, Nigg, Buu, Puttler, Glass, et al., 2008; Fite, Colder,
Lochman, & Wells, 2007).
Despite these associations with negative outcomes, aggressive reputation has also shown
positive links with social competence and higher status among peers (Becker & Luthar, 2007;
Prinstein & Cillessen, 2003). Unlike youth viewed as isolated, youth seen as aggressive have
many peer interactions (Bagwell, Coie, Terry, & Lochman, 2000), which may be associated with
social feedback and higher social status. This is supported by the previously discussed
association between popularity and aggression (Cillessen & Borch, 2006; Gest et al. 2006). More
specifically, there is a strong link between popularity and relational aggression, a means to
achieve high peer status (Cillessen & Mayeux, 2004).
In this study, we expected that associations between aggressive reputation and outcome
measures would resemble those for popular reputation. These included positive links with
externalizing symptoms and substance use and negative links with internalizing symptoms and
academic achievement.
Isolated Peer Reputation and Adjustment
Prior work is inconclusive on the relationship between isolated peer reputation and
internalizing symptoms (Oh, Rubin, Bowker, Booth-LaForce, Rose-Krasnor et al., 2008;
Realmuto et al., 2000; Morison & Masten, 1991). Gest and colleagues (2006) found that when
the isolated reputation is divided into three facets (peer exclusion, withdrawn, sad-sensitive),
only high scores on the sad-sensitive facet were related to higher risk for internalizing symptoms.
Research focused on self-reported social isolation suggests that peer isolation puts children at
risk for later internalizing symptoms. Moreover, children isolated from peers show higher odds
of suicide attempts, elevated depressive symptoms, and lower self-esteem (Hall-Lande,
Eisenberg, Christenson, & Neumark-Sztainer, 2007).
Encouragingly, isolated reputation is positively linked to higher concurrently assessed
academic achievement (Chen, Wang, & Cao, 2011; Luthar & McMahon, 1996). Further, high
academic achievement appears to be protective over time, mitigating the longitudinal
relationship of isolated reputation to internalizing symptoms (Chen, Yang, & Wang, 2013). In
addition to academic benefits, a higher score on sensitive-isolated reputation predicted fewer
externalizing problems four years later (Realmuto et al., 2000).
Evidence on isolation from peers and substance use is mixed. Some research connects
peer isolation to a greater risk of substance use (Prinstein, Rancourt, Guerry, & Browne, 2009);
other studies indicate a lower risk, particularly for alcohol use (Kramer & Vaquera, 2011). It is
conceivable that an isolated reputation may be protective from negative outcomes such as drug
use, since these children remain sheltered from the deviant influences of their peers.
In this study, we predicted a positive relationship between scores on isolated reputation
and both internalizing symptoms and academic outcomes. In contrast, we predicted a negative
relationship between isolated reputation scores and both externalizing symptoms and substance
Summary of Goals: Illuminating the Long-term Implications of Peer Reputation
Given mixed evidence on links between peer reputation and outcomes, coupled with
powerful peer influences during middle school and elevated social competitiveness among youth
in relatively affluent communities, our goals were to investigate the long-term associations of
peer reputation in middle school, and multiple outcomes in late adolescence. Adjustment indices
examined included academic performance (both GPA and standardized SAT scores), symptoms
of both internalizing and externalizing, and substance use (alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use).
Hypotheses were that (a) both popular and aggressive reputations in middle school would be
positively associated with substance use and externalizing symptoms and negatively associated
with internalizing symptoms and academic outcomes in late adolescence; (b) prosocial reputation
in middle school would be negatively associated with substance use, internalizing symptoms, and
externalizing symptoms, and positively associated with academic outcomes in late adolescence,
and (c) isolated reputation in middle school would be negatively associated with substance use
and externalizing symptoms and positively associated with academic outcomes and internalizing
symptoms in late adolescence.
Data for this study from 6th, 7th, and 12th grades (1999, 2000, & 2005 respectively) came
from a larger longitudinal study, the New England Study of Suburban Youth (NESSY; Luthar &
Barkin, 2012), in which data were collected annually in middle and high schools in a suburban
community. At the beginning of the study, of the eligible 346 sixth grade students in the two
middle schools in the town, 319 participated (152 females and 167 males), producing a 92%
initial participation rate. Another 37 students joined the study in 7th grade. When long-term
outcome data were collected in 2005 at the end of 12th grade, 209 of the original participants
completed the questionnaires, generating a 59% retention rate across the six years (Luthar &
Barkin, 2012).
Most students in the sample were Caucasian (92% white non-Hispanic). The average age
of the 319 participants at wave one (6th grade) of the study was 11.57 (SD= .54) years for boys
and 11.56 (SD= .50) years for girls. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2000), the
approximate mean and median annual family income at the first wave of the study were
$188,000 and $152,000, respectively, classifying this community as affluent. More recent state
data from 2014 shows mean and median family income at approximately $255,000 and $152,000
(Department of Economic and Community Development, 2016).
Participants were recruited for the study through passive consent with letters mailed
home to parents with study information and a form to request that their child not participate. All
survey materials were stored by subject number, and to date, data have been presented in
aggregate form to protect participants’ confidentiality in accordance with approved IRB
Data collection in the 6th and 7th grades occurred during school hours over a two-day
period in classrooms of 20–25 students with questions read aloud to students. Classroom teachers
were gifted $1 per participating student toward a pizza party, a recommendation from the school
administration, and teachers were compensated $5 for each student they rated. With permission
from parents and the school administration, class grades were collected for all participating
students. In the 12th grade, data were collected with students seated at tables in the cafeteria.
Again, class grades were collected with permission from parents and school administration, as
were SAT scores.
Revised Class Play nominations in 6th and 7th grades. To measure social reputation, the
Revised Class Play (RCP; Masten, et al., 1985) was used. We selected, a priori, four items to
represent each of the four RCP dimensions in this study. These were items that have high face
validity as measures of the construct and have consistently shown high factor loadings on the
dimension in past research (Zeller et al., 2003; Luthar & McMahon, 1996).
Students chose classmates who best fit roles for an imaginary play they were directing.
Each student received a list of participating classmates from their English class; in reminding
children of all available classmates, using such a list decreased the likelihood that some students
(e.g., those absent from class that day) would be overlooked in nominations. Students could
nominate up to three peers in all, including boys and girls, for each role and could nominate the
same peer for more than one role. Students were not allowed to self-nominate. This procedure
produces a sum of counts of peer nominations for children within a given class, generated by a
group who knows them well, as they have interacted with them for several months as classmates.
In short, what we obtained were nominations on children’s observed behaviors by a group of
others who interacted with them regularly.
Roles in the play included both positive (“is a good leader”) and negative (“can’t get
others to listen”) attributes. The same 16 items from the RCP in 6th grade and 7th grade were
analyzed. The observed score on each item was the number of nominations a student received,
standardized within classroom and gender to control for variation in overall class size and gender
mix within classrooms (Realmuto et al., 2000; Luthar & McMahon, 1996).
Good psychometric properties of the RCP have been documented with middle school
children, including high factor structure reliability across 6 months with the 4-factor model
(Luthar & McMahon, 1996) and across 17 months with the 3-factor model (Masten et al., 1985).
High internal consistency of RCP scale scores measured by coefficient alpha using a 4-factor
model have been documented across genders (Luthar & McMahon, 1996), cross-culturally
(Casiglia, LoCoco, & Zappulla, 1998), and across school levels (Zeller et al., 2003), including
elementary, middle school and high school. Construct validity has been supported through
comparison to related adjustment indices (Casiglia et al. 1998; Luthar & McMahon, 1996).
When measured in middle school, the RCP was found to have predictive validity for
psychosocial adjustment during adolescence and early adulthood (Gest et al., 2006; Morison &
Masten, 1991). As reported below, we found adequate internal consistency of the RCP scales in
both the 6th and 7th grade in the present data.
12th Grade Outcome Variables
Substance use. To measure substance use, the frequency of drug use grid from the
Monitoring the Future study was employed (Bachman, O'Malley, & Johnston, 1984). This
measure asks participants to endorse how often a substance was used over the preceding year, as
well as over the preceding month. Responses were on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from
“never” to “40+ times.” Self-report has been previously documented as a valid method of
measuring drug use, showing construct validity, external validity, and internal validity
(O’Malley, Bachman, & Johnston, 1983). In this study, use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana
over the past year served as outcome measures of drug use, given that these three substances
have the highest rates of use among high school students (Johnston, O’Malley, & Bachman,
Internalizing and externalizing symptoms. The internalizing and externalizing scales
of the Youth Self Report (YSR), a 112-item measure (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2001), were used
to determine symptom severity. The three alternative responses to each item were as follows: 0
“Not True,” 1 “Somewhat or Sometimes True,” and 2 “Very True or Often True.” Internalizing
symptoms were computed using the YSR subscales Anxious-Depressed, Withdrawn-Depressed,
and Somatic, whereas externalizing symptoms consisted of Rule Breaking and Aggressive
Behavior subscales. This widely used measure has been shown to be reliable and valid
(Achenbach & Rescorla, 2001). In this study, Cronbach’s alpha coefficients for girls and boys,
respectively, were as follows: Anxious-Depressed .78 and .86, Withdrawn-Depressed .72 and .76,
Somatic .70 and .85, Rule Breaking .68 and .77, and Aggressive Behavior .82 and .82. For the
combined internalizing subscale, there was good internal consistency, as measured by coefficient
alpha .85 for girls and .92 for boys; the same was true for the combined externalizing subscale,
with coefficient alpha of .84 for girls and .88 for boys.
Academic outcomes. Academic achievement was measured with two variables.
Grade point average (GPA) was calculated for each student using grades from four
classes (English, math, science, and social studies) from the previous three school-year quarters.
GPA was used as an indicator of academic achievement. Letter grades were coded such that an
A+ received a score of thirteen and an F received a score of one.
Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores assess a high school student’s academic college
readiness. The SAT is a standardized test taken by high school students in the United States and
is a widely used criterion for college admissions. When SAT data were collected in this study,
tests were scored on a scale from 400 to 1600, higher scores indicating higher college readiness.
Statistical Analyses
Mplus 7.11 (Muthén & Muthén, 2011) was used to evaluate the extent to which the
models fit the data within a structural equation model framework. Two classes of analyses were
performed. The first was a series of confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) examining the factor
structure of the RCP. The second was a series of structural models predicting 12th grade outcomes
from middle school peer reputations (i.e., from the four RCP dimensions). Variance-covariance
matrices were analyzed to estimate parameters for both measurement and structural models.
Goodness of fit was assessed by chi-square tests as well as root mean square error of
approximation (RMSEA), comparative fit index (CFI), and standardized root mean square
residual (SRMR). Adequate fit was based on the following cut-off scores: RMSEA < .08, CFI > .
95, and SRMR < .05 (Yu & Muthén, 2002; Hu & Bentler, 1999).
All analyses of 12th grade outcomes controlled for 6th grade status on the same or
closely related measures. Specifically, GPA at Grade 6 served as the covariate for Grade 12 GPA;
Grade 6 GPA also served as the covariate for SAT, which is only measured in the 12th grade.
Measures of anxiety and depression at Grade 6 served as covariates for Grade 12 internalizing.
Delinquency at Grade 6 served as the covariate for Grade 12 externalizing. Grade 6 alcohol use,
cigarette use, and marijuana use served as covariates for Grade 12 alcohol use, cigarette use, and
marijuana use, respectively.
Missing Data
Of the original 356 participants with data from 6th, 7th, or both grades, 147 cases (41%)
were eliminated because the child was not available in 12th grade to collect data. On 6 of 8 study
variables, there were non-significant differences between retained and attrited 6th grade students:
GPA ([retained – attrited], t(317) = 1.37, p = .17, d = .16), depression symptoms (t(313) = 0.91, p
= .37, d = .10), anxiety symptoms (t(310) = 0.36, p = .72, d = .04), delinquency (t(308) = -0.28, p
= .78, d = .04), prosocial reputation t(317) = 1.37, p = .17, d = .16, and isolated reputation
t(317)= -0.33, p = .74, d = .04. However, children who attrited had higher aggressive and
popularity scores, [retained – attrited] t(317) = -3.42, p < .01, d = .38, t(317) = -2.35, p = .02, d =
.26, respectively. In all, 14% of attrited students had aggression scores at least two standard
deviations above the mean in Grade 7 as opposed to 7% of retained students. For popularity,
these values were 11% versus 5%, respectively. Substance use was almost nonexistent in Grade 6
so was not used in attrition analyses.
Missing data were handled in all analyses with full information maximum likelihood
estimation (FIML) in Mplus 7.11 (Muthén & Muthén, 2011). There were 23 students who lacked
only 6th grade RCP reputation scores and 10 who lacked only 7th grade RCP scores. All peer
reputation data from students measured at a particular grade were complete. RCP measures are
based on peer report; therefore, students with permission to participate in the study did not have
to be present to be nominated by their peers for roles in the RCP. One participant did not respond
to 12th grade alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use. Five GPA and fourteen SAT scores were
missing, and one participant was lacking YSR data.
Measurement Model
The measurement model for the RCP predicted a four-factor structure previously reported
by Luthar and McMahon (1996) and Zeller et al. (2003). Table 1 shows the items hypothesized
to compose each reputation along with the mean count and standard deviations of nominations
received by students. The relatively low skew and kurtosis of the items were within the cutoffs
provided by West, Finch, and Curran (1995) for use of maximum likelihood estimation.
Initial confirmatory factor analysis. The model for the CFA contained the four RCP
dimensions as latent factors, with the 16 individual items permitted to load only on their specific
latent factors. The four RCP latent factors were permitted to covary, since the RCP measure
permitted nominations of a student on multiple scales. The initial CFAs were estimated on 6th and
7th grades separately; identical models were estimated in the two grades. Initial modeling of the
four-factor, 16-item model in each grade surfaced two extremely highly correlated items on the
aggression factor: “picks on other kids” and “teases other children too much”, r = .73 in 6th grade
and r = .71 in 7th grade. The “picks on other kids” item was deleted, due both to this high
correlation and its high skew and kurtosis in 6th grade. The prosocial item “will wait their turn”
was also deleted due to its strong cross loadings on popularity and aggressive factors in 6th grade
and popularity, aggressive, and isolated factors in 7th grade.
The CFA models at each grade were re-estimated with the 14 items listed in Table 2 (i.e.,
(4 popular, 3 prosocial, 3 aggressive, 4 isolated). Models are presented in Figure 1. Fit was
acceptable, based on fit indices in both grades: Grade 6 (χ2 (71, N = 186) = 116.04, p < .01; CFI
= .97; RMSEA = .06 [90% CI = .04, .08]; SRMR = .05) and Grade 7 (χ2 (71, N = 199) = 87.24,
p = .09; CFI = .99; RMSEA = .03 [90% CI = .00, .06]; SRMR = .04). All items loaded on their
respective factors, with item loadings ranging from .64 to .92 and .59 to .94 in the 6th and 7th
grades, respectively (see Table 2). Composite reliabilities, reported in Table 2, ranged between .
67 and .93 and were calculated by dividing the sum of the squared standardized factor loadings
by the sum of squared standardized factor loadings plus the sum of the residual error variances
following Raykov (1997).
Specification of combined-grades model. Within each grade, the three or four indicators
of each reputation were summed to create four reputation scale scores per grade level. As shown
in Figure 2, the measured reputation scale scores in the 6th and 7th grades served as indicators of
the latent RCP dimensions; for model identification, unstandardized loadings of the two
indicators per reputation scale were constrained equal. RCP dimensions were permitted to
correlate. Within each grade, all indicators were permitted to correlate to account for shared time
of measurement.
The combined-grades model fit the data well (χ2 (6, N = 209) = 8.42, p = .21; CFI = .99;
RMSEA = .04 [90% CI = .00, .11]; SRMR = .04) without further adjustments to the model.
Correlations among latent factors are given in Figure 2, as are standardized loadings of all
indicators on their respective factors. All indicators loaded significantly on their respective
factors (p < .01 in all cases), and all peer reputation latent factors were significantly correlated (p
< .01 in all cases) with the exception of isolated and aggressive.
Structural Equation Models
A total of seven path models were used to predict adjustment outcomes at Grade 12 from
the four RCP scores and appropriate covariates. Continuous outcomes included academic
achievement (GPA and SAT scores) and psychopathology (internalizing and externalizing), and
ordered categorical outcomes included alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use. The latent variable
structure of the RCP from the combined-grades model served as predictors of each outcome in a
series of structural equation models (SEMs). Appropriate Grade 6 covariates were included in the
models (e.g., Grade 6 GPA in the model predicting Grade 12 GPA). Descriptive statistics of the
adjustment outcome variables are reported in Table 3.
Correlations of latent RCP variables. Table 4 contains the correlations estimated in the
SEMs among the RCP latent dimensions and of the RCP dimensions with the seven outcome
variables. There were substantial correlations among the RCP latent variables, notably between
popular and isolated (latent correlation = -.54) and between prosocial and aggressive (latent
correlation = -.47). Prosocial was positively correlated with GPA and SAT, while aggression was
negatively correlated. Popular exhibited positive correlations with all substance use variables,
while the opposite was true for isolated reputation. Aggression was only slightly
(nonsignifcantly) positively correlated with alcohol and marijuana use, but more strongly with
cigarette use. No RCP dimension correlated with internalizing, whereas prosocial correlated
negatively, and aggressive positively, with externalizing.
Academic Outcomes (GPA, SAT). Model fit was adequate for structural models
predicting academic outcomes: GPA (χ2 (18, N = 209) = 20.12, p = .33; CFI = .99; RMSEA = .03
[90% CI = .00, .07]; SRMR = .05) and SAT (χ2 (18, N = 209) = 18.22, p = .44; CFI = 1.00;
RMSEA = .01 [90% CI = .00, .07]; SRMR = .05).
Table 5 reports the path coefficients for the prediction of Grade 12 GPA, with the four
RCP reputations and corresponding outcome covariate as predictors in the GPA structural model.
In this model with simultaneous prediction from the four RCP reputations, only prosocial but not
aggressive reputation was a significant predictor, attributable to the strong negative correlation
between the prosocial and aggressive reputations. The same result was found for prediction of
SAT scores (see Table 5). In addition, the covariate Grade 6 GPA was a significant predictor of
Grade 12 GPA but did not predict Grade 12 SAT scores.
Psychological Symptomatology Outcomes (Internalizing, Externalizing). Fit
statistics suggested acceptable model fit for psychopathology: internalizing symptoms (χ2 (18, N
= 209) = 27.15, p = .08; CFI = .98; RMSEA = .05 [90% CI = .0, .08]; SRMR = .04) and
externalizing symptoms (χ2 (18, N = 209) = 23.61, p = .17; CFI = .99; RMSEA = .04 [90% CI = .
00, .08]; SRMR = .05). In the structural models in which each outcome was predicted
simultaneously from the four reputation latent variables plus corresponding covariates, prosocial
reputation negatively predicted externalizing, with no RCP dimensions predicting internalizing
symptoms (see Table 5). Regarding covariates, measures of internalizing at Grade 6 (depression
and anxiety) did not predict Grade 12 internalizing, whereas delinquency at Grade 6 positively
predicted Grade 12 externalizing. Finally, given the positive skew and kurtosis of both
internalizing and externalizing, we re-estimated models with robust maximum likelihood (MLR);
results were consistent with ML.
Substance Use Outcomes (Alcohol, Cigarettes, Marijuana). Substance use was
measured on ordered categorical scales of use frequency (never, 1-2 times, 3-5 times…40+
times). The structural models specified an ordered categorical dependent variable and were
estimated with weighted least squares means and variances adjusted (WLSMV) estimator (Yu &
Muthén, 2002). Fit statistics from the WLSMV models suggested that the models fit the data
adequately: alcohol (χ2 (18, N = 209) = 26.54, p = .09; CFI = .98; RMSEA = .05 [90% CI = .00, .
09]), cigarettes (χ2 (18, N = 209) = 21.89, p = .24; CFI = .99; RMSEA = .03 [90% CI = .00, .
08]), and marijuana (χ2 (18, N = 209) = 19.51, p = .36; CFI = .99; RMSEA = .02 [90% CI = .
00, .07]). As shown in Table 5, with all four reputations and corresponding Grade 6 covariate as
predictors, popular reputation positively predicted all three substance use outcomes, whereas
prosocial and isolated reputations negatively predicted all three substance use outcomes (p = .06
in one case).
Aggressive reputation has a positive correlation with cigarette use yet did not predict
cigarette use in the path model. This is attributable to prediction of cigarette use by popular and
prosocial reputations in the model and strong correlation between the aggressive reputation and
both popular and prosocial reputations.
An anomalous negative path coefficient was noted for aggressive reputation predicting
marijuana use (p = .04). This negative coefficient is directly attributable to statistical
suppression, with aggressive reputation serving as a suppressor variable. As shown in Table 4,
aggressive reputation manifested a small, nonsignificant model estimated positive correlation
with marijuana use (r = .07) while being substantially correlated with popular and prosocial
reputation (r = .33, -.47, respectively). When aggressive reputation was included as a predictor of
marijuana use in the model containing all reputation latent variables, the standardized path
coefficient for popular (path coefficient = 31.) exceeded its correlation with marijuana use (r =
24). In turn, aggressive reputation manifested a negative path (path coefficient = -.33) that
exceeded its correlation with marijuana use (r = .07) and was of reversed sign of this close to
zero correlation coefficient. This pattern well represents the general pattern of statistical
suppression (Tzelgov & Henik, 1991). The suppression effect can be interpreted to mean that
aggressive reputation is partialed out of the popular reputation, and that this partialed measure of
popular reputation unconfounded with aggressiveness predicts marijuana use.
Covariates of substance use at Grade 6 were included in the models. Although Grade 6
cigarette use did not predict Grade 12 cigarette use, and Grade 6 marijuana use did not predict
Grade 12 marijuana use, Grade 6 alcohol use positively predicted Grade 12 alcohol use.
In the first long-term, prospective study to explore dimensions of middle school peer
reputation in the context of relative affluence, findings revealed that these were significantly
related to multiple adjustment outcomes several years later at the end of high school, ranging
from performance on a major standardized test (SAT) to frequency of substance use. The
findings on substance use are of particular significance because this is a problem that has been
repeatedly documented among teens in relatively affluent schools (Coley et al., 2017; Lund et al,
2017; Luthar et al., 2013) with potentially serious long-term sequalae including markedly
elevated rates of addiction to drugs and alcohol, relative to norms (Luthar et al., 2017).
More generally, our findings on peer relationships provide critical insights that further
illuminate the bigger picture of an academically and socially competitive environment in which
many upper-middle class children may struggle (see Luthar et al., 2013). Peer reputation, as an
aspect of peer environment, impacts the behaviors and beliefs of youth and may be particularly
salient for teens whose peer environment may be highly competitive and prone to envy, which in
turn presages maladjustment (Luthar & Kumar, in press; Luthar et al., 2013).
Prosocial Reputation
A prosocial reputation in middle school was associated with healthy adjustment outcomes
in later years. These included relatively high academic grades and SAT scores, low
psychopathology symptoms, and the novel finding of low substance use (alcohol, cigarettes, and
marijuana use in 12th grade according to model path coefficients) by late adolescence.
One reason that a prosocial reputation may be associated with positive future outcomes is
because prosocial behaviors are associated with positive adjustment. For example, prosocial
spending has been linked to positive well-being in both rich and poor countries (Aknin,
Barrington-Leigh, Dunn, Helliwell, Burns, et al., 2013). Moreover, helping others is associated
with better mental health, (Schwartz, Meisenhelder, Yusheng, & Reed, 2003), greater life
satisfaction, and higher self-esteem (Weinstein & Ryan, 2010). Additionally, a positive
relationship exists between prosocial behavior and academic endeavors (Caprara, Kanacri,
Gerbino, Zuffiano, Alessandri, et al. 2014).
Not only prosocial behaviors, but the values underlying the behaviors of young people
with prosocial reputations may foster well-being. In an environment where competition is rife
and getting ahead is highly emphasized (Luthar et al., 2013), youth who value helping others and
showing kindness, rather than personal gain and status, may in some way be protected from the
subcultural risk of high competitiveness (Ciciolla et al., 2016). For instance, prosocial values
have been linked to less delinquency, drug use, and risky sexual behavior among diverse groups
of adolescents (Ludwig & Pittman, 1999) suggesting that valuing prosocial activities decreases
the likelihood of risk-taking behavior. Furthermore, prosocial values have been tied to intrinsic
values such as friendship, community, and personal growth, which are thought to fulfill basic
psychological needs, unlike extrinsic values such as status and wealth (Sheldon, Ryan, Deci, &
Kasser, 2004). In the United States, where youth place great importance on extrinsic goals such
as attaining money and fame (Twenge & Kasser, 2013), a greater focus on intrinsic goals
promoted by prosocial values may be a key part in improving the well-being of adolescents.
Popular Reputation
Although the outcomes of both may appear beneficial, many middle school children do
not actively strive for a prosocial reputation, but instead endeavor to be viewed as popular
(Cillessen et al., 2011). Popular reputation was distinct from prosocial reputation among youth in
this study, showing positive relationships with all three substance use outcomes, corroborating
prior findings that separate prosocial and popular as distinct reputations (Gest et al., 2006; Zeller
et al., 2003; Realmuto et al., 2000; Luthar & McMahon, 1996).
The relationship between substance use at Grade 12 and pre-adolescent popularity may
derive from third variables that assist youth in gaining a popular reputation as well as increase
risk for drug use or delinquent behavior. For instance, children in 6th and 7th grades who have low
parental monitoring or who spend much time with older children may be viewed as popular by
peers and may be at greater risk for drug use concurrently and in the future (Luthar et al., 2013;
2017; Dishion, Nelson, & Kavanagh, 2003). Alternatively, according to Reputation Enhancement
Theory, as youth develop a reputation among their peers, their behavior is influenced by their
emerging identities and by the desire to maintain that identity (Emler & Reicher, 1995). In
accordance with this theory, children with a popular reputation may behave in ways that meet
with peer approval, and in relatively affluent communities, substance use has been linked with
peer acceptance (Luthar & D’Avanzo, 1999; Becker & Luthar, 2007). Indirectly, popular children
seeking to maintain their social standing may behave in ways that put them at greater risk for
substance use, including disregarding social rules and seeking peer attention (López-Romero &
Romero, 2011; de Bruyn & Cillessen, 2006).
Isolated Reputation
In this study, isolated peer reputation appeared protective against experimentation with
substances, supporting work by Kramer and Vaquera (2011) who examined friend nominations
and substance use. Limited interactions with peers may be one explanation for this relationship:
specifically, less opportunity for contagion of high-risk behaviors and less time unmonitored by
adults (Kramer & Vaquera, 2011; Dishion et al., 2003). These low levels of high school
substance use could benefit isolated youth given that the younger the age of substance use
initiation, the greater the risk of a substance use disorder as an adult (Pitkänen, Lyyra, &
Pulkkinen, 2005; Grant & Dawson, 1998).
Evidence was not found for a relationship between isolated peer reputations in middle
school and elevated internalizing problems at the end of high school, contrary to the positive
association between these constructs in previous work (Hall-Lande et al., 2007; Gest et al., 2006;
Realmuto et al., 2000). It is possible that the reason that children are isolated may be more
important than the peer reputation of isolated. As noted at the outset of this paper, Gest and
colleagues (2006) identified three facets of isolated peer reputation (sad-sensitive, shy-
withdrawn, and peer isolated) and showed that the different facets predicted different relations
with adjustment outcomes. An isolated peer reputation due to voluntary withdrawal from social
interactions had different implications for internalizing symptoms than an isolated reputation due
to active rejection by peers. Thus, although our findings suggest no significant relationship
between an isolated peer reputation and internalizing problems, this does not preclude the
possibility that more complex relationships do exist between different types of isolated students
and internalizing symptoms.
Aggressive Reputation
Consistent with prior findings, aggressive peer reputation was negatively correlated with
academic outcomes, GPA and SAT scores, and was positively correlated with externalizing
symptoms and cigarette use. However, apart from cigarette use, observed correlations of
outcomes with aggression were smaller in absolute value than those of the other three
reputations. This is most likely attributable to the loss of children with high aggression scores in
the sample by the 12th grade. Additionally, the lower correlations of aggression than of other RCP
dimensions with outcomes resulted in a failure of aggression to show statistical significance as a
predictor in models that included all four RCP dimensions. Finally, the one anomalous negative
path coefficient that was found from aggression to marijuana use was attributable to statistical
suppression. In all, the weak predictive contribution of aggression to outcomes should be treated
with caution, due to selective attrition of children with higher aggressive reputation scores.
Limitations, Implications, and Future Directions
Our findings may be somewhat limited due to the moderate retention rate of the original
sample of 6th and 7th grade children at Grade 12. There was no evidence of selective attrition on 6
of the 8 study variables in 6th grade (GPA, depression symptoms, anxiety symptoms,
delinquency, prosocial reputation, and isolated reputation). However, there was evidence of
selective loss of popular and aggressive children. Even with the selective loss of popular
students, we did obtain significant findings for predicted relationships of popularity with
academic outcomes and substance use, but as noted earlier expected findings for aggression
appear to have been obscured by attrition.
Behavioral trait nominations in this study were constrained to three peers, as in other
recent research (e.g., Chung-Hall & Chen, 2010; Becker & Luthar, 2007; Prinstein & La Greca,
2004; Farmer, Estell, Bishop, O’Neal, & Cairns, 2003; Lease, Musgrove, Axelrod, 2002; Rodkin,
Farmer, Pearl, & Acker, 2006), whereas some studies have set higher limitations (e.g. 10
nominations, Kwon, Lease, & Hoffman, 2012), unlimited nominations (Sandstrom & Cillessen.
2010), or, in contrast, have limited nominations to one per gender (Gest et al, 2006).
Acknowledging that our use of three nominations may limit generalizability of findings (Becker
& Luthar, 2007), we note, at the same time, that the relationships documented between RCP
dimensions and outcomes do converge with findings from studies that employ different peer
nomination strategies. Further, our scales based on three nominations showed good psychometric
properties, replicating previous findings on the dimensionality of the RCP.
Offsetting these weaknesses are several strengths of the study. The measurement
approach employed both 6th and 7th grade peer nomination scores as indicators of reputation.
Thus, we have more than a single snapshot of children to characterize how they are viewed by
their peers, strengthening the measurement of reputation. Adjustment indicators spanned
subjectively experienced distress, self-reported substance use, and official school records of both
GPA and scores on the SAT. The longitudinal design encompassed the developmentally critical
years from preadolescence to late adolescence. In terms of substantively extending the literature
on peer reputation, our findings corroborated some associations previously noted in the literature
and demonstrated several new associations, important from both a conceptual and practical
Perhaps most important are the findings on the long-term ramifications of prosocial
behavior. In operationalizing “wellness” among children and adolescents, resilience researchers
have exhorted greater consideration of behaviors that reflect kindness, altruism and doing for the
greater good (Luthar, Lyman, & Crossman, 2014; Luthar, 2017). The present findings show that
such prosocial behaviors, as judged by peers in their everyday environments, can have salutary
effects for the children over the course of several years. These beneficial effects include
relatively high GPA and SAT scores, a critically important finding in this highly competitive,
upwardly mobile setting.
Also noteworthy in this regard are associations showing that what is sometimes a
“positive” peer reputation – popularity – in fact connotes risk for frequent substance use several
years later, whereas what is thought of as negative – isolated reputation – can mitigate risk for
frequent substance use. This finding was consistent across all three substance use variables.
Future research should replicate our findings given the known high risk for substance use among
teens in high achieving contexts (Luthar & D'Avanzo, 1999; Luthar et al., 2017).
Future studies should also address the issue of generalizability of findings among
students from ethnic minority families as well as different socioeconomic backgrounds.
Additionally, evaluating the impact of middle school peer reputation on participants who have
entered adulthood would add to the literature on long-term effects of reputation. It is possible
that significant long-term benefits exist for preteens able to maintain everyday prosocial
behaviors even when this may not be “cool” in the eyes of the wider peer group.
In summary, results of this study indicate that there can, in fact, be benefits to a deliberate
focus on kindness, integrity, and compassion in settings where personal achievement and getting
ahead are disproportionately emphasized (Luthar, 2017). From an applied perspective, it may be
useful to disseminate findings on prosocial behaviors among adults, specifically within high
achieving school communities. Youth tend to benefit when they see significant adults as valuing
their decency and kindness as much as their grades and achievements (Ciciolla et al., 2016;
Luthar & Kumar, in press). Moreover, parents and educators might be motivated to promote
prosociality if the benefits for the children were not only for their psychological adjustment but
also for what is so highly prized in such communities – high academic grades and SAT scores.
Thus, encouraging adults to model prosocial behaviors could improve their children’s chances of
adaptive functioning and even their personal accomplishments over time.
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Table 1.
Distribution of items from the RCP
6th Grade M(SD) 7th Grade M(SD)
Popular Popular
has many friends 1.87(2.85) has many friends 1.94(3.44)
everyone listens to 1.41(2.15) everyone listens to 1.39(2.21)
makes new friends easily 1.61(2.08) makes new friends easily 1.74(2.51)
everyone likes to be with 1.62(2.38) everyone likes to be with 1.63(2.55)
Prosocial Prosocial
plays fair 1.82(1.84) plays fair 1.81(1.64)
polite 1.93(2.35) polite 2.03(2.09)
will wait their turn 1.89(1.76) will wait their turn 2.11(2.04)
helps other people when
they need it 2.02(1.99)
helps other people when
they need it 1.94(1.92)
Isolated Isolated
rather play alone than
with others 1.11(2.50)
rather play alone than
with others 1.06(2.09)
has trouble making
friends 1.46(3.08)
has trouble making
friends 1.39(2.80)
can't get others to listen 1.29(2.35) can't get others to listen 1.36(1.99)
often left out 1.52(3.12) often left out 1.45(2.57)
Aggressive Aggressive
interrupts when other
children are speaking 1.12(2.29)
interrupts when other
children are speaking 1.26(2.75)
gets into a lot of fights 1.04(2.10) gets into a lot of fights 0.93(1.83)
teases other children too
much 1.04(2.28)
teases other children too
much 0.99(2.02)
picks on other kids 1.00(2.17) picks on other kids 1.00(1.99)
Note. Based on counts of number of nominations received by students on RCP items
Table 2.
The Standardized Factor Loadings on Peer Reputation Latent Constructs for Respecified Model
6th Grade 7th Grade
has many friends 0.85 0.88
everyone listens to 0.77 0.82
makes new friends easily 0.86 0.89
everyone likes to be with 0.85 0.92
plays fair 0.78 0.59
polite 0.73 0.64
helps other people*0.80 0.66
rather play alone*0.73 0.82
has trouble making friends 0.90 0.90
can't get others to listen 0.77 0.69
often left out 0.92 0.94
interrupts*0.71 0.69
gets into a lot of fights 0.72 0.63
teases other children* 0.64 0.84
Composite reliability 0.90 0.81 0.90 0.73 0.93 0.67 0.91 0.77
Note. Composite reliability calculated as suggested by Raykov (1997). Two RCP items removed: ‘will wait turn’
and ‘picks on other kids’. Latent variables allowed to covary and variances equal to one. *Item name shortened
Table 3.
Descriptive Data on Adjustment Outcomes in 12th Grade
M(SD) Skew Kurtosis % Zeros
GPA 9.24(1.79) -0.83 0.58
SAT 1226.92(169.08
) -0.27 -0.25
Internalizing Symptoms 7.89(7.40) 1.93 6.52
Externalizing Symptoms 10.32(7.06) 1.74 6.72
Alcohol Yearly Use 3.48(2.18) -0.38 -1.27 17%
Cigarette Yearly Use 1.79(2.32) 0.87 -0.90 53%
Marijuana Yearly Use 1.79(2.20) 0.81 -0.89 50%
Note. GPA range (1=F to 13=A+); SAT (400 to 1600); Internalizing symptoms, Youth Self-Report (0 to
62); Externalizing symptoms, Youth Self-Report (0 to 64); Substance Use (0=never to 6=40+ times)
Table 4.
Correlations Between Measured Outcome Variables and Peer Reputation Latent Constructs
Middle School Peer
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1. Popular -
2. Prosocial .32 -
3. Isolated -.54 -.32 -
4. Aggressive .33 -.47 -.13 -
12th Grade Outcomes
5. GPA .07 .43 -.01 -.19 -
6. SAT .02 .34 .00 -.19 .50 -
7. Internalizing
-.00 -.11 .04 .07 .02 .12 -
8. Externalizing
.05 -.32 .04 .21 -.29 -.01 .58 -
9. Alcohol Yearly Use .35 -.06 -.34 .06 -.13 -.00 -.00 .33 -
10. Cigarette Yearly
.25 -.18 -.20 .29 -.25 -.16 .17 .39 .48 -
11. Marijuana Yearly
.24 -.10 -.29 .07 -.17 -.06 .09 .34 .51 .49
Note. Bolded correlations are significant at the 0.05 level.
Table 5.
Path Coefficients for Prediction of 12th Grade Outcomes from Peer Reputation Latent
Constructs and Covariates
Parameters Unstandardized (SE) Standardized (SE) pR2 (SE)
GPAa on: .19 (.06)
Popular -.05 (.22) -.03 (.13) .84
Prosocial .83 (.24) .48 (.13) <.01
Isolated .23 (19) .13 (.11) .20
Aggressive .13 (.24) .08 (.14) .51
GPA Grade 6 .09 (.04) .14 (.07) .05
SATa on: .13 (.06)
Popular -12.99 (21.53) -.08 (.13) .55
Prosocial 74.34 (23.70) .46 (.14) <.01
Isolated 17.85 (18.44) .11 (.11) .33
Aggressive 21.01 (23.11) .13 (.14) .36
GPA Grade 6 .28 (4.23) .01 (.07) .95
Internalizinga on: .04 (.03)
Popular .32 (.93) .04 (.13) .73
Prosocial -.67 (.99) -.09 (.13) .50
Isolated .11 (.82) -.01 (.11) .90
Aggressive .08 (.95) .01 (.13) .94
CDI Grade 6 .05 (.12) .05 (.11) .69
RCMAS Grade 6 .16 (.13) .13 (.11) .22
Externalizinga on: .18 (.06)
Popular 1.40 (.97) .20 (.14) .15
Prosocial -2.89 (1.01) -.41 (.14) <.01
Isolated .20 (.80) .03 (.11) .80
Aggressive -.57 (1.01) -.08 (.14) .58
Delinquency Grade 6 .15 (.05) .23 (.07) <.01
Alcoholb on: .26 (.08)
Popular .72 (.30) .34 (.14) .01
Prosocial -.77 (.34) -.36 (.15) .02
Isolated -.57 (.25) -.27 (.11) .02
Aggressive -.49 (.33) -.23 (.15) .13
Alcohol Grade 6 .73 (.26) .28 (.09) <.01
Cigarettesb on: .22 (.08)
Popular .62 (.29) .30 (.14) .03
Prosocial -.95 (.37) -.46 (.16) <.01
Isolated -.51 (.29) -.25 (.13) .06
Aggressive -.24 (.32) -.12 (.15) .43
Cigarette Grade 6 .17 (.29) .05 (.08) .56
Marijuanab on: .26 (.10)
Popular .65 (.31) .31 (.14) .03
Prosocial -.98 (.40) -.46 (.17) .01
Isolated -.88 (.34) -.42 (.14) <.01
Aggressivec-.69 (.37) -.33 (.16) .04
Marijuana Grade 6 .28 (.43) .05 (.07) .51
Note. aSEM with outcome variable treated as continuous. bSEM with outcome variable treated as ordered
categorical. csuppression effect
Figure 1. Respecified 6th and 7th Grade CFA Models Excluding Two Items of the RCP with
Standardized Loadings.
Figure 2. Combined grades model with reputation scale scores in 6th grade and 7th grade as
indicators of each latent factor with standardized loadings.
... At social gatherings in HAS communities, alcohol and drugs are routinely present; students have the money to acquire substances and cars to transport them easily. With the use of alcohol and drugs socially normative, gregarious students are more likely than others to experiment with them (Curlee, Aiken, & Luthar, 2019). These norms can, furthermore, have long-term consequences. ...
... These norms can, furthermore, have long-term consequences. Longitudinal data show that high peer ratings of popularity in middle school were significantly linked with increased substance use levels at the end of high school (Curlee et al., 2019). ...
Excessive pressures to excel, generally in affluent contexts, are now listed among the top 4 "high risk" factors for adolescents' mental health, along with exposure to poverty, trauma, and discrimination. Multiple studies of high-achieving school (HAS) cohorts have shown elevated rates of serious symptoms relative to norms, with corroborating evidence from other research using diverse designs. Grounded in theories on resilience and ecological influences in development, a conceptual model is presented here on major risk and protective processes implicated in unrelenting achievement pressures facing HAS youth. These include forces at the macrolevel, including economic and technological changes that have led to the "middle class squeeze," and proximal influences involving the family, peers, schools, and communities. Also considered are potential directions for future interventions, with precautions about some practices that are currently widespread in HAS contexts. In the years ahead, any meaningful reductions in the high distress of HAS youth will require collaborations among all stakeholders, with parents and educators targeting the specific areas that must be prioritized in their own communities. Leaders in higher education and social policy could also help in beginning to curtail this problem, which is truly becoming an epidemic among today's youth. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
... Studying social reputations in class via peer nominations has a long history in research on child and adolescent adjustment (Bukowski & Newcomb, 1984;Hallinan, 1981;Masten et al., 1985). Social characteristics of students as judged by their classmates, such as being popular, prosocial, a leader, peer isolated, withdrawn, or aggressive, according to their classmates, predict adjustment, social functioning, work and academic careers much later in life (Cowen et al., 1973;Curlee et al., 2019;Gest et al., 2006;Morison & Masten, 1991;Wentzel et al., 2021). However, there is no previous research on young peoples' political reputations in class. ...
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The study examined the individual characteristics and consequences of psychological group processes that may lead some students to gain a reputation for being politically knowledgeable and verbal in class (a political reputation). Two normal samples of Swedish students were used, 13‐year‐olds (N = 835) and 16‐year‐olds (N = 795). Longitudinal data over one year were analyzed and showed that youths' political reputation in class is established very early. Cross‐sectional predictions showed that political interest predicted political reputation in class positively, and social fear predicted political reputation negatively in both cohorts. In addition, having a political reputation predicted increased political interest and political efficacy over one year. Further, mediation analyses showed that youths' political predispositions, their political interest and political efficacy at T1, significantly operated on interest and efficacy at T2 via the political reputation. This suggests that political reputation partly functions as a booster of youths' initial political predispositions over time. Future research is needed into the long‐term consequences of having a political reputation.
... Social status is closely related to children's socioemotional adjustment and the establishment of a stable self-concept, abilities that are crucial in the development phases from childhood to adulthood (Chen & Chen, 2019). Social status has further implications for academic competence, indicating a significant relevance for educational outcomes and future opportunities (Curlee, Aiken, & Luthar, 2019). The importance of social status for developmental success stands in sharp contrast to the limited knowledge about the manner in which the social status of children is threatened by teacher violence. ...
School victimization has been negatively associated with children's social status. However, previous studies have primarily focused on peer victimization, leaving a significant knowledge gap regarding violence by teachers. We hypothesized that, when almost all children experience violence by teachers, not only the experience of violence, but also other factors, for example, mental health problems, may influence children's social preference and centrality. We therefore examined potential moderation effects of children's internalizing and externalizing problems. We implemented a multistage cluster randomized sampling approach to randomly chose fifth- and sixth-grade students from primary schools throughout Tanzania. Using a multi-informant approach, data were collected from 643 children (51.0% girls, M age = 12.79 years). Results showed inconsistent direct associations between teacher violence and social status, whereas mental health problems were consistently associated with lower social status. Significant interaction effects were found for internalizing problems; that is, teacher violence was associated with lower social status for increasing internalizing problems. However, no interaction effects were found for externalizing problems. The findings underline the burden of exposure to violence by teachers and the importance of mental health for children's social functioning. Knowledge about interrelations can be applied in interventions to effectively reduce violence by teachers toward students.
... Likewise, although there is some evidence of bidirectional relations between peer liking and STR-quality (Hughes & Chen, 2011), the relations between peer interactions in the classroom and teachers' socialemotional functioning are not well understood. Finally, based on evidence from middle and high school samples that popularity is positively related to aggression and substance use, and isolation is negatively related to substance use (Curlee, Aiken, & Luthar, 2019;Luthar & McMahon, 1996), care must be taken before assuming that all positive peer interactions are adaptive and that all negative peer interactions interfere with high-levels of adjustment. ...
The goal of this study was to apply aspects of the heuristic model advanced by Eisenberg, Cumberland, and Spinrad (1998) to the study of socialization that takes place in preschool and elementary school classrooms. Investigating socialization in this context is important given the number of hours students spend in school, the emotional nature of social interactions that take place involving teachers and students, and the emotions students often experience in the context of academic work. Guided by Eisenberg, Cumberland, et al.'s (1998) call to consider complex socialization pathways, we focus our discussion on ways teachers, peers, and the classroom context can shape students' emotion-related outcomes (e.g., self-regulation, adjustment) and academic-related outcomes (e.g., school engagement, achievement) indirectly and differentially (e.g., as a function of student or classroom characteristics). Our illustrative review of the intervention literature demonstrates that the proposed classroom-based socialization processes have clear applied implications, and efforts to improve socialization in the classroom can promote students' emotional and academic competence. We conclude our discussion by outlining areas that require additional study. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
... In highly competitive settings, it is beneficial when personal decency and integrity are prioritized in comparison to personal success, not only by parents, but also by peers . Our research has shown that middle schoolers who were often named by peers as decent and kind and who exemplified prosocial values (e.g., being polite, fair, and helpful) were those who fared the best, as high school seniors, on outcomes that are so highly valued in these communities: high academic GPAs and SAT scores (Curlee, Aiken, & Luthar, 2018). Paradoxically, therefore, it was commitment to doing for others that presaged high personal success over the long term. ...
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Youth in high achieving schools (HAS) are at elevated risk for serious adjustment problems—including internalizing and externalizing symptoms and substance use—given unrelenting pressures to be “the best.” For resilience researchers, successful risk evasion in these high-pressure settings should, arguably, be defined in terms of the absence of serious symptoms plus behaviorally manifested integrity and altruism. Future interventions should target that which is the fundamental basis of resilience: Dependable, supportive relationships in everyday settings. These must be promoted between adults and children and among them, toward enhancing positive development among youth and families in these high stress environments.
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In discussing how merit is commonly judged in academia, my focus in this paper is not on dimensions that are currently considered, but on those that warrant more attention. Grounded in suggestions offered by Sternberg (2016), I argue here for increased recognition of faculty’s commitment to intrinsic values – focused on community and relationships – and not just extrinsic ones that connote personal fame or status. I first summarize evidence of disillusionment among today’s promising young scholars, and then provide exemplars of role models who have, in fact, maintained high standards in both intrinsic and extrinsic domains. I illustrate how commitment to intrinsic goals in everyday professional responsibilities (such as peer reviews or teaching) can come at cost to personal success, and suggest ways of providing appropriate recognition in faculty evaluations. At the macro-level, I describe how positive work communities can enhance productivity, foster resilience and mitigate burnout in the competitive world of contemporary academe. Finally, I underscore the critical role of psychologists in spurring greater dialogue about the messages conveyed by higher education, to the next generation, about what truly matters in making "a life well lived”.
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In this prospective study of upper middle class youth, we document frequency of alcohol and drug use, as well as diagnoses of abuse and dependence, during early adulthood. Two cohorts were assessed as high school seniors and then annually across 4 college years (New England Study of Suburban Youth younger cohort [NESSY-Y]), and across ages 23–27 (NESSY older cohort [NESSY-O]; n s = 152 and 183 at final assessments, respectively). Across gender and annual assessments, results showed substantial elevations, relative to norms, for frequency of drunkenness and using marijuana, stimulants, and cocaine. Of more concern were psychiatric diagnoses of alcohol/drug dependence: among women and men, respectively, lifetime rates ranged between 19%–24% and 23%–40% among NESSY-Os at age 26; and 11%–16% and 19%–27% among NESSY-Ys at 22. Relative to norms, these rates among NESSY-O women and men were three and two times as high, respectively, and among NESSY-Y, close to one among women but twice as high among men. Findings also showed the protective power of parents’ containment (anticipated stringency of repercussions for substance use) at age 18; this was inversely associated with frequency of drunkenness and marijuana and stimulant use in adulthood. Results emphasize the need to take seriously the elevated rates of substance documented among adolescents in affluent American school communities.
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High achievement expectations and academic pressure from parents have been implicated in rising levels of stress and reduced well-being among adolescents. In this study of affluent, middle school youth, we examined how perceptions of parents’ emphases on achievement (relative to prosocial behavior) influenced youth’s psychological adjustment and school performance, and examined perceived parental criticism as a possible moderator of this association. The data were collected from 506 (50% female) middle school students from a predominately white, upper middle class community. Students reported their perceptions of parents’ values by rank ordering a list of achievement- and prosocial-oriented goals based on what they believed was most valued by their mothers and fathers for them (the child) to achieve. The data also included students’ reports of perceived parental criticism, internalizing symptoms, externalizing symptoms, and self-esteem, as well as school-based data on grade point average and teacher-reported classroom behavior. Person-based analyses revealed six distinct latent classes based on perceptions of both mother and father emphases on achievement. Class comparisons showed a consistent pattern of healthier child functioning, including higher school performance, higher self-esteem, and lower psychological symptoms, in association with low to neutral parental achievement emphasis, whereas poorer child functioning was associated with high parental achievement emphasis. In variable-based analyses, interaction effects showed elevated maladjustment when high maternal achievement emphasis coexisted with high (but not low) perceived parental criticism. Results of the study suggest that to foster early adolescents’ well-being in affluent school settings, parents focus on prioritizing intrinsic, prosocial values that promote affiliation and community, at least as much as, or more than, they prioritize academic performance and external achievement; and strive to limit the amount of criticism and pressure they place on their children.
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Studies suggest that affluence poses a risk for adolescents, but this has rarely been studied outside the United States. We examined the unique and additive roles of family and school affluence for adolescent outcomes among 10th-grade students (n = 7,203) in Oslo, Norway. Multilevel models were estimated separately by gender. For both boys and girls, school affluence was a risk for alcohol abuse and family affluence was a risk for conduct problems, although for conduct the risk was only at the very highest end of income distribution and adolescents in very poor families were also at risk. There was also a complex pattern of risk for early sexual debut; family affluence posed risk, but school affluence appeared protective.
Research has identified risks of both poverty and affluence for adolescents. This study sought to clarify associations between income and youth mental and behavioral health by delineating economic risks derived from family, neighborhood, and school contexts within a nationally representative sample of high school students (N = 13,179, average age 16). Attending schools with more affluent schoolmates was associated with heightened likelihoods of intoxication, drug use, and property crime, but youth at poorer schools reported greater depressive and anxiety symptoms, engagement in violence, and for male adolescents, more frequent violence and intoxication. Neighborhood and family income were far less predictive. Results suggest that adolescent health risks derive from both ends of the economic spectrum, and may be largely driven by school contexts.
A method is described to identify peer cliques based on a consensus of group members; it provides quantitative measures of preadolescents' involvement in cliques and their association with peers who often get in trouble. Of primary interest was the relation between peer rejection and participation in peer cliques. Characteristics of peer cliques were assessed for 824 fourth-grade youth as a function of their sociometric status, gender, and aggressiveness. Rejected youth were less central members of their group than were average-status peers; however, aggressive preadolescents were no less centrally involved than their nonaggressive peers. Rejected preadolescents also belonged to smaller cliques and to cliques comprised of other low-status peers. Aggression was the primary factor associated with being a central member of deviant peer cliques.