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Hanging Out: Features of Urban Elementary Students’ Classroom Social Networks
Unformatted Document Text:  Hanging Out: Features of Urban Elementary Students’ Classroom Social Networks Peer groups shape childhood and adolescent academic, behavioral, and social outcomes. To date, however, researchers have limited information regarding the structure of peer social networks among urban children and adolescents. In this paper, I explore the effects of key demographic characteristics including sex, age, and race on the classroom peer network features of 144 third through eighth grade students in an urban, racially and socio-economically diverse elementary school. Results demonstrated that girls exhibited significantly smaller peer networks than boys, but that these findings attenuated with grade level. This provides partial support for the two cultures theory of gender differences in peer group structure. In addition, grade level was negatively associated with ego network density. These results were consistent with prior empirical literature suggesting that as grade level increases a “degrouping process” occurs whereby children are less likely to be clique members and more likely to be liaisions or isolates. Finally, grade level was positively associated with race homophily. This provides support for developmental theories that suggest that as racial awareness increases among children, they develop preferences for same race friends. Implications of these results for future research are discussed. Keywords: peer social networks, demographic characteristics, children, adolescents

Authors: Neal, Jennifer.
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Hanging Out: Features of Urban Elementary Students’ Classroom Social Networks 
Peer groups shape childhood and adolescent academic, behavioral, and social outcomes.  To date, however, researchers have 
limited information regarding the structure of peer social networks among urban children and adolescents.  In this paper, I 
explore the effects of key demographic characteristics including sex, age, and race on the classroom peer network features of 
144 third through eighth grade students in an urban, racially and socio-economically diverse elementary school. Results 
demonstrated that girls exhibited significantly smaller peer networks than boys, but that these findings attenuated with grade 
level.  This provides partial support for the two cultures theory of gender differences in peer group structure.  In addition, grade 
level was negatively associated with ego network density. These results were consistent with prior empirical literature 
suggesting that as grade level increases a “degrouping process” occurs whereby children are less likely to be clique members 
and more likely to be liaisions or isolates.  Finally, grade level was positively associated with race homophily.  This provides 
support for developmental theories that suggest that as racial awareness increases among children, they develop preferences for 
same race friends.  Implications of these results for future research are discussed.  
Keywords:  peer social networks, demographic characteristics, children, adolescents

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