Peer Group Status as a Moderator of Group Influence on Children’s Deviant, Aggressive, and Prosocial Behavior


  • This article is based on a doctoral dissertation by the first author under the direction of the second author. Portions of this research were funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and by a New Research and Scholarly Initiative and Academic Development Fund Award from The University of Western Ontario to the second author. The authors wish to thank the school personnel and children who participated in this research, and the many students who helped gather and process the data.

concerning this article should be addressed to Wendy Ellis, King’s University College at The University of Western Ontario, 266 Epworth Ave., London, Ontario, N6A 2M3. Electronic mail may be sent to


Group status was examined as a moderator of peer group socialization of deviant, aggressive, and prosocial behavior. In the fall and 3 months later, preadolescents and early adolescents provided self-reported scores for deviant behavior and group membership, and peer nominations for overt and relational aggression, prosocial behavior, and social preference. Using the social cognitive map, 116 groups were identified involving 526 children (282 girls; M age = 12.05). Hierarchical linear modeling revealed that high group centrality (visibility) magnified group socialization of relational aggression, deviant behavior, and prosocial behavior, and low group acceptance magnified socialization of deviant behavior. Results suggest group influence on behavior is not uniform but depends on group status, especially group visibility within the larger peer context.