How Friends Influence Adolescents' Adjustment to School.

How Friends Influence Adolescents' Adjustment to School.

DOCUMENT RESUME ED 332 813 AUTHOR TITLE SPONS AGENCY PUB DATE NOTE PUB TYPE EDRS PRICE DESCRIPTORS PS 019 606 Berndt, Thomas J.; Keefe, Keunho How...

236KB Sizes 0 Downloads 7 Views

DOCUMENT RESUME ED 332 813

AUTHOR TITLE SPONS AGENCY PUB DATE NOTE

PUB TYPE

EDRS PRICE DESCRIPTORS

PS 019 606 Berndt, Thomas J.; Keefe, Keunho How Friends Influence Adolescents' Adjustment to School. Spencer Foundation, Chicago, Ill. Apr 91 15p.; Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development (Seattle, WA, April 18-20, 1991). Reports - Research/TecrInical (143) -Speeches/Conference Papers (150) MF01/PC01 Plus Postage. *Adjustment (to Environment); *Adolescents; Comparative Analysis; Discil.line Problems; *Educational Environment; Elementary School Students; *FriendsPip; Grade 7; Grade 8; Junior High Schools; *Peer Influence; *Rural Areas; Student Participation

ABSTRACT

A short-term longitudinal study investigated theoretical perspectives on friends' influences and compared the influence of a student's closest friend with that of several close friends. Participants were 297 seventh and eighth graders in junior high schools in small towns or rural areas adjacent to a medium-sized city. Measures obtained in the fall and spring of a school year provided data on students' involvement in school, the frequency with which they were disruptive in class, names of their best friends, and positive and negative features of their friendships. Questions about positive features dealt with the friends' prosocial behavior and emotional support, and the intimacy of the friendships. Questions about negative features dealt with the frequency of conflicts and rivalry or unpleasant competition between friends. Students' English and mathematics teachers rated their involvement and disruptive behavior. Findings inuicated that friends influence one another's attitudes and behavior so that the friends become increasingly similar over time. Adolescents' adjustment to school was affected by the features of their friendships. Correlations based on multiple friendships were often larger than those based on the closest friendship. Findings suggest that measures based on several friendships are more reliable than those based on one friendship, but researchers can expect to get comparable results from both types of measures. (RH)

*********************************************************************** r.eproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made from the original document. ***********************************************************************

U.S. DEPARTMENT Of EDUCATION

Veto RI (Outshot* 151sesaren and imotovimimi EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES INFORMATION CENTER tERIC)

kThis oocument hal been reproduced as IeSWPC tiOM the ;mesa', Of OfWVIIIIIti011

oNoinalin it

C Minor Changes have been mad. 10 imprOve reproduCliOn Quality

Pool% of vra* or opnrons 111100 m111110000.

mint do nO1 necessenly represent otheill 001 Walloon or poliCy

HOW FRIENDS INFLUENCE ADOLESCENTS' ADJUSTMENT TO SCHOOL

Thomas J. Berndt Purdue University

and

Keunho Keefe

California State Fullerton

The research reported in this paper was supported by part

by a grant from the Spencer Foundation. Their support is gratefully acknowledged.

"PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE THIS MATERIAL HAS BEEN GRANTED BY

OVACkS 13.

B*2..rftlec TO THE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES INFORMATION CENTER (ERIC)."

2 REST COPY AVAILABLE

ABSTRACT

Many theorists assume that adolescents are influenced by

their friends' characteristics so that they gradually become more similar to their friends. Outer theorists assume that adolescents benefit from having friendships with positive features. Both processes of influence were examined in a short-term

longitudinal study. The study included 297 seventh and eighth

graders. Measures of the students' friendships, their adjustment to school, and their friends' adjustment were obtained in the fall and the spring of a sciiool year. Friends' similarity increased

during the year, hut not all increases were due to friends' influence on each other. Students whose friendships had more positive features and fewer negative features also improved in adjustment.

2

INTRODUCTION

Many theorists and researchers have assumed that adolescents are influenced by the attitudes and behavior of their

friends. Several researchers have shown, for example, that adolescents whose friends have positive attitudes toward school

improve over time in their own attitudes (e.g., Davies & Kande!, 1981; Epstein, 1983). Conversely, adolescents whose friends dislike school decrease over time in their adjustment to school.

The net result of friends' influence, then, is increased similarity of the school adjustment of adolescents and their friends.

Other theorists and researchers focus on different processes of influence. They argue that adolescents' behavior and adjustment improve when they have friendships that are close, supportive, and harmonious. Piaget (1932/1965), for example, proposed that mutual respect among peers is critical for the development of a mature morality. Sullivan (1953) emphasized the hnportance of close friendships for the development of self-esteem and social understanding. More recently, many theorists have suggested that friendships or other close relationships provide support for people faced with stressful events and help them cope more effectively (e.g., Cohen

& Wills, 1985). Still other researchers have argued that close and harmonious relationships with peers can improve adolescents' social and academic adjustment to school (e.g.,

Damon, 1984; Furman & Gavin, 1989). Direct tests of these hypotheses are rare, however. 3

PURPOSE

The purpose of our study was to examine both theoretical

perspectives on friends' influence. We used a short-term longitudinal design to see if the similarity in friends' adjustment to school increased between the fall and the spring semesters of

a school year. We also considered the stability of students' friendships, because an increase in friends' similarity can most confidently be taken as the result of friends' influence if students

kept the same friends throughout the year. In addition, we used interviews with students to assess the features of their friendships. Then we examined the relations of friendship features to school adjustment in each semester. We also examined the relations of friendship features in the fall to changes in students' adjustment between semesters.

A secondary purpose of our study was to compare the influence of a student's closest friend with that of several close friends. In some studies of friends' influence, researchers used

measures based on just one friendship. In other studies, researchers used measures based on multiple friends. We used both types of measures and examined the parallels between the findings for the two types.

4

5

METHOD Subjects

The study included 297 students (194 girls and 103 boys)

from the seventh and eighth grades in three junior high schools. The schools were in small towns or rural areas next to a

medium-sized city. Most of the students were white.

Procedure During the fall semester, small groups of students

completed questionnaires that included questions about their involvement in school and the frequency with which they were

disruptive in class. Sample questions are listed in Table 1. The

students' English and math teachers also rated their involvement and their disruptive behavior.

Then the students named up to three best friends. Bestfriend nominations were not restricted, but most students named friends who were the same sex and in the same grade at the

same school. Next, students answered a standard set of questions about the positive features and negative features of

these friendships. The questions about positive features dealt with the friends' prosocial behavior, their emotional support, and

the intimacy of the friendships. The questions about negative features dealt with the frequency of conflicts and rivalry or unpleasant competition between friends. Table 1 also includes examples of these questions.

The same assessments were done near the end of the

spring semester, about six months later. Because most students 5

E.;

*0

named friends who were also participating in the study, we could

match the friends' responses with students' responses. The matching was done twice. We first tried to match students with

the friend they had named as their best or closest friend. Such a match was possible for 52% of the sample. Then we matched students with all the friends, up to three, whom they named who

were participated in the study. Over 80% of the students in the sample could be matched with at least one close friend in this

way, and most were matched with two or three friends. In a similar way, we created measures of the features of students'

friendships both from their reports about their closest friendship and from their reports about up to three close friendships.

'7 6

RESULTS

Friends' Similarity in thg Ea 11 and tht Sating

The procedure for matching students' scores to their friends' scores allowed us to compute correlations for the actual

similarity in adjustment between friends. Table 2 shows those

correlations for the fall and the spring. Table 2 also indicates that the correlations for two measures, teacher-rated involvement and self-reported disruption, increaced significantly

between the fall and the spring. These increases are preliminary evidence for friends' influence on each other. They suggest that friends affected each other so that their involvement and disruptive behavior became more similar during the year. A significant increase in a similarity correlation is only

preliminary evidence for friends' influence, however. Also needed is information on the stability of students' friendships. The

correlation for friends' similarity in self-reported disruptive behavior increased significantly during the year only when

students kept the same friends throughout the year. The correlations for students with unstable friendships were

nonsignificant in both semesters. This pattern suggests that students with stable friendships did become more similar to their friends in disruptive behavior because they influenced each other. The correlations for friends' similarity in teacher-rated involvement increased significantly during the year only when

students' friendships were unstable. The similarity correlations for students with stable friendships were significant in both 7

8

semesters and changed little during the year. This pattern suggests that friends became more similar in involvement because they ended friendships with classmates whose

involvement differed from theirs and formed new friendships with

classmates more similar to themselves. In other words, the increase in friends' similarity resulted from friend selection rather

than friends' influence. We also did multiple regression analyses in which each

measure of school adjustment in the spring was a criterion variable, the same measure of adjustment in the fall was entered as the first predictor, and the corresponding measure of the

friend's (or friends') adjustment in the fall was another

predictor. When the analyses are done in this way, significant effects for the measure of friends' adjustment suggest that the friends' adjustment influenced the changes in students'

adjustment during the year. Table 2 shows that the multiple regression analyses yielded

findings similar but not identical to those from the analyses of

similarity correlations. The changes in students' adjustment during the year appeared to be influenced by their friends' involvement as rated by teachers, their friends' disruptive

behavior as they reported it themselves, and their friends' grades.

89

Effects of Friendshio Features As Table 3 shows, students who described their friendships

as having more positive features reported greater involvement in

school and were rated by their teachers as more involved. Students who described their friendships as having more negative features were less involved and more disruptive,

according to their self-reports. The measures of friendship features were not related to students' academic achievement judged by report-card grades. Multiple regression analyses like those used to examine the influence of the friends' characteristics were done to examine the

effects of friendship features on the changes in adolescents'

adjustment during the year. Table 3 indicates when these analyses yielded significant effects. Students whose closest

friendship in the fall had more positive features showed more positive changes in involvement during the year. This finding suggests that students who had better friendships also viewed their school experiences more favorably. Students whose fall friendships had more negative features

increased in their self-reported disruptive behavior during the year. A weak effect in the opposite direction was found for

teacher ratings of students' disruption, but only for the measure of students' closest friendship. Because the simple correlations of this measure with teacher-rated disruption were nonsignificant, this result may be attributed to chance. The findings more strongly suggest that problems with friends are

associated with, and contribute to, problem behavior at school.

CONCLUSIONS

1. Friends influence one another's attitudes and behavior so that they become more similar over time. But not all increases in friends' 'similarity result from their influence on one

another. Adolescents may also drop old friends and make new friends who are more similar to themselves. Our findings suggest that friends became more similar in their disruptive behavior because they influenced one another's behavior. By

contrast, friends became more similar in involvement as rated by teachers because they formed new friendships during the year with classmates whose involvement more closely matched theirs.

2. Adolescents' adjustment to school is related to, and affected by, the features of their friendships. Adolescents whose friendships are more intimate and supportive are more positively involved in school. Adolescents whose friendships are marred by

conflicts and rivalry are more disruptive in school. Most theories of friendships focus primarily on their positive features. Our findings suggest that both the positive and the negative features

of adolescents' friendships affect their adjustment. 3. We examined the influence of students' closest

friendship and of ur to three close friends. The correlations based on multiple friendships were often larger than those based

on the single closest friendship. Even so, the patterns of correlations were similar. These findings suggest that measures based on several friendships are more reliable than those based

on one friendship, but researchers can expect to get comparable results from the two types of measures.

REFERENCFS

Damon, W. (1984). Peer education: The untapped potential.

hurnal

APatied nenlopmental Psychology, 5, 331-343. Davies, M., & Kandel, D. B. (1981). Parental and peer

influences on adolescents' educational plans: Some further evidence. American Journal, af Sociology, $7, 363-387.

Epstein, J. L. (1983). The influence of friends on achievement and affective outcomes. In J. L. Epstein & N. L. Karweit (Eds.), Friends in School (pp. 177-200). New York: Academic Press.

Furman, W., & Gavin, L. A. (1989). Peers' influence 6, 1 adjustment and development: A view from the intervehtion

literature. In T. J. Berndt & G. W. Ladd (Eds.). Peer relationfts in child development (pp. 319-340). New York: Wiley.

Piaget, J. Thg matal judgment f thg all. New York: Free Press, 1965. (Originally published, 1932.)

Sullivan, H. S. The hitemersonqi thou. York: Norton, 1953.

11

12

pxyghiatar. New

Table 1

Sample Items from Ilk Measures 21 5chool Agiustment Ansi Friendship

Measures

Items

School Adjustment Involvement

How often do you take part in class discussions?

(6 items)

Disruption

How often do you do things in class that cause

(6 items)

you to get in trouble?

Grades

English and math teachers' records of most recent report-card grades

Friendship Positive features

How often does this friend help you when

(12 ;tems)

you can't do something by yourself? How often do you tell this friend things about yourself that you wouldn't tell most kids?

Negative features

How often do you get into arguments with this friend?

(8 items)

How often does this friend try to boss you around?

Note.

Students responded to all questions on 5-point scales ranging from nAlIAL to very often.

12

13

Table 2 rt_s

in thi_alLand_thgAps,_ngi

Closest Friends

Meflsures

Fall

Spring

Close Friends Fall

Spring

Involvement Self-reported

.14

.27***

.14*

.26***

Teacher-rateda

.34***

.55***

47***

.58***

Self-reporteda

.09

.28***

.22**

.41***

Teacher-rated

43***

.40***

43***

.46***

.40***

.36***

49***

.46***

Disruption

Grades

tilltft.

Correlations are underlined when multiple regression analyses

suggested that friends' scores in the fall significantly affected the changes in students' scores between the fall and the spring.

aThe differences between the correlations for fall and spring

were significant for these measures, when tests for differences between dependent correlation coefficients were used.

*R < .05.

*ft < .01.

***R < .001.

Table 3 Correlations between the Measures of School Adjustment and of IliA11.0.1111.P_ELW=LE.111iLbALMLULJUIt_02_11aLing

Adjustment measures

Closest Friendship

Close Friendships

Positive Features

Negative Features

Positive Features

Negative Features

Fall Spring

Fall Spring

Fall Spring

Fall Spring

Involvement

Self-reported

.15*

Teacher-rated

.15** .13*

.17**

-.14* -.14*

.24*** .24*** -.11*

-.17**

-.01

.21*** .20*** -.11*

-.04

.02

Disruption Self-reported

-.02

-.00

Teacher-rated

-.01

.02

.06

.04

.03

.07

Grades

Note.

.16** .20**

-.06

-.08

.29*** .28***

.06

-.01

-.01

.17**

.03

.11

.08

-.05

Correlations are underlined when multiple regression analyses

suggested that the features of students' friendships in the fall significantly affected the changes in their adjustment between the fall and the spring.

*R < .05

**R < .01

***R < .001

.06

.05