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Keywords:

  • popularity;
  • gender differences;
  • status differences;
  • early adolescence

Abstract

This study examined gender and status differences among sixth through eighth grade early adolescents' (N = 387) descriptions of what it means to be popular. More boys than girls specified being cool, athletic, funny, and defiant/risky, whereas more girls than boys identified wearing nice clothing, being attractive, mean, snobby, rude, and sociable as descriptors of popularity. Descriptions also varied as a function of the individual's status: adolescents who were perceived as popular described popularity primarily in positive terms, whereas adolescents perceived as average and unpopular used both positive and negative terms. Compared with their same-gender peers, more popular boys indicated being cool, attractive, and athletic, whereas more popular girls specified being athletic and liked. Compared with popular girls, more average girls used the terms mean and conceited in their descriptions, whereas more average and unpopular girls indicated the term snobby. This study illustrates the complexity and variability in early adolescents' social constructions of popularity.