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“They Like Me, They Like Me Not”: Popularity and Adolescents’ Perceptions of Acceptance Predicting Social Functioning Over Time

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  • This study was completed with the assistance of grants from the National Institute of Mental Health. This study and its write-up were supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01-MH44934, R01-MH58066, and F31-MH65711-01).

concerning this article should be addressed to Kathleen Boykin McElhaney, Department of Psychology, Box 400400, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4400. Electronic mail may be sent to kab2u@virginia.edu.

Abstract

This study examined the dual roles of adolescents’ perceptions of social acceptance and sociometric popularity in predicting relative changes over time in adolescents’ social functioning. Observational, self-report, and peer report data were obtained from 164 adolescents who were interviewed at age 13 years and then again at age 14 years, as well as their same-sex close friends. Adolescents who felt positively about their own social standing fared well over time, regardless of their level of sociometric popularity. Further, low popularity was particularly problematic for adolescents who failed to see themselves as fitting in. Results suggest that during adolescence, when it becomes increasingly possible for teens to choose their own social niches, it is possible to be socially successful without being broadly popular.

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