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Adolescent Cliques


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Adolescent cliques
Adolescent cliques are cliques that develop amongst adolescents. In the social sciences, the word "clique" is used to describe a group of 2 to 12 (averaging 5 or 6) "who interact with each other more regularly and intensely than others in the same setting". Cliques are distinguished from "crowds" in that their members interact with one another. Crowds, on the other hand, are defined by reputation. Although the word 'clique' or 'cliquey' is often used in day-to-day conversation to describe relational aggression or snarky, gossipy behaviors of groups of socially dominant teenage girls, that is not scientifically accurate. Interacting with cliques is part of normative social development regardless of gender, ethnicity, or popularity. Although cliques are most commonly studied during adolescence and middle childhood, they exist in all age groups.
As children enter adolescence, cultural, biological and cognitive changes cause variation in their daily lives. Adolescents spend far less time with their parents and begin participating in both structured and unstructured peer activities. Without the direct presence of their parents or other adults, their peer network begins to become the primary context for most socialization and activity.
These social "cliques" fundamentally influence adolescent life and development. Perhaps because they are perceived as an external threat to parental authority, undesired changes in adolescent behavior are often attributed to cliques. In these situations, cliques are described as "social grouping[s] of persons that exhibit a great deal of peer pressure on its members and is exclusive, based on superficial differences". Researchers, however, question these assumptions: based on empiric data from both experiments and ethnographies they suggest that clique structure characterizes many friendship networks within any given school, not all of which negatively affect adolescents. A more neutral and scientific definition of clique is "a grouping of persons who interact with each other more regularly and intensely than others in the same setting".
Although cliques can range from two to twelve people, cliques typically consist of five or six people who are homogeneous in age, gender, race, social status, and socioeconomic background. More subtle determinant of group membership, such as shared interests and values, take precedence as adolescents develop more sophisticated, abstract cognitive functions (more here), which allow them to categorize individuals in more subtle ways and better interpret social interactions. Consistent group identities thus allow individuals to cope with the anonymity and intimidation that often accompany the transition into large secondary schools.
Similar cliques may re-emerge in adulthood in specific contexts, characterized by large, undifferentiated, anonymous crowds. Overall, cliques are a transitory social phase. In general, cliques first form in early adolescence with strict gender segregation, but by middle adolescence, some mixed-gender activities within the peer crowds foster close, cross-sex friendships which begin to restructure the clique. During late adolescence, the organized clique structure typically dissolves into associated sets of couples, which then remain the primary social unit into and throughout adulthood.
Cliques are different from other types of peer groups often seen in the average school, which are often reputation-based groups such as jocks or nerds. The major difference is that these reputation-based groups do not necessarily interact with each other, whereas members of a clique do interact with one another and have frequent social interactions. For example, football players are considered jocks, but not all members of a football team always interact with each other.
Clique membership
Common misconceptions
Although the popular media portrays female cliques almost exclusively (see examples in movies, television, and young adult fiction), clique membership is almost equally prevalent in adolescent boys. Girls do, however, tend to form cliques earlier (11 years old as compared with 13 or 14 among boys), which may contribute to the greater popular salience of female cliques. Additionally, the activities central to most female cliques include gossip and emotional sharing; this behavior visibly increases, revealing female cliques to the outside observer. Male cliques, on the other hand, tend to center around activities that have occurred before the formation of the clique (common examples include basketball and video games), and thus may draw less attention to the appearance of male cliques.
Male cliques may have also gone largely unnoticed because they often appear less exclusive toward the non-clique peer group members. This last difference may arise because males more frequently reported ambitions related to acceptance and status throughout their crowd, whereas females more often aspired to status and close bonds with only a few peers (i.e. a clique). Males were also more likely to consider actively exclusive behavior unethical, as were younger adolescents.
The stereotype of cruel, unwelcoming clique members is well supported in some cases, but other cliques are more open to drifters. Both attitudes appear in some cliques of both sexes and all social groups become more permeable with age. Similarly, although adolescents tend to associate with others of the same ethnicity and socioeconomic status, clique membership is equally common across ethnicity and economic background. The characteristics of the distinct cliques within each demographic group also vary equally, although members of cliques in one crowd or demographic group may not perceive all of the distinctions in others (see also crowds).
Forms of association
A number of recent studies confirm that regardless of gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, adolescents tend to fall into one of three categories: group members, liaisons, and isolates.
Group Member: The majority of group members' social interactions occur within the same small group. They comprise less than half of any given school population at a time, with a higher concentration among girls and younger grades.
Liaisons: Liaisons associate with a few members of multiple cliques and are generally regarded positively by their peers.
Isolates: Characterized by few, if any, close peer relationships, these individuals do not regularly interact with any clique members. Isolated can be further classified by social agency:
Volunteer status – these isolates deliberately avoid forming relationships.
Forced status – peers actively exclude, mock, or victimize these isolates (see relational aggression and bullying).
Stability over time
membership type is far more stable over time than membership in an individual clique: isolates generally remain socially disengaged, liaisons remain equally consistent, and "group members" frequently switch from one clique to another, but typically remain group members over time. The objective cliques themselves remain surprisingly stable as well. On average, cliques lose around one third of their members over a given school year, but new members with similar characteristics tend to replace the deserters, maintaining the general identity of the clique. Clique membership becomes more stable across time, as well as more permeable, less exclusive, and less hierarchical. Contrary to popular belief, individual friendships are far less stable across the school year. This is particularly true of high-status cliques and individuals, in which clique members must critically analyse their friendships and socialize only with their most popular peers or risk losing membership and status.
Types of American Cliques
Using the definition of a clique, we are able to draw distinctions between the many different types of cliques a person is able to be a member of. During adolescent years, students may obtain membership to a certain clique in order to ease the process of secondary school. Since adolescents emulating similar cultural standards are likely to become friends and these friends are likely to encourage these aspects of their attitudes, behaviors, and dress, the types of cliques commonly found in schools can vary significantly. Some of the more common types of cliques found include: jocks, tomboys, cheerleaders, mean girls, foreigners, gamers, hipsters, hippies, troublemakers, peacemakers, class clowns, "cool kids", arty intellectuals, gangsters, wangsters, "ghetto kids", stoners/slackers, girly girls, scenesters, scene kids, punks, preps, skaters, goths, emos, skinheads, geeks/nerds, and drifters.
High school Cliques
TLC (TV channel) mentions and describes some typical types of teen cliques observable in most high schools.
geeks – a group of students described as being intellectual, obsessive or socially impaired. They usually don't have the modern fashion sense of other groups, and they usually prefer chess to hoops. "Geeky" interests and hobbies usually include: fantasy movies and shows, role-playing games and technical hobbies and activities (which in some cases can include technology knowledge). geeks are smart, but they sometimes have a hard time socially, as many teens view them as being more boring to be around than others.
jocks – live for athletics, tend to be popular with many of their peers. They may be the male equivalent of "mean girls".
Thespians – the teens who are obsessed with Broadway musicals and more than likely aspire to do theatre professionally. They typically have a very busy and complicated schedule, spending most of their time in rehearsal for the school show or working on their craft. They generally do well academically and have a good sense of responsibility. They are usually very kind and sweet to those outside of their own clique, except for the occasional diva. They are also creative and very funny, but have a unique sense of humor which is only funny to those who understand musical theatre references; their preferred subjects are in the performing arts-drama, singing, dance, acting, and musical theatre.
skaters – skateboarders who came along and borrowed the long hair and slacker trappings of the surf scene, but they have always been more rebellious.
Outsiders – may be socially challenged and unable to fit in, or they may be independent and feel no need to join any one group exclusively. They tend to have an "I don't care about anything" attitude, and will oftentimes get in trouble for it.
hipsters – make a big effort to assemble a wardrobe that seems effortless. They challenge traditional norms and modern trends. All genders wear tight jeans, flannel shirts, Buddy Holly glasses and vintage clothing. They follow the latest trends in fashion and like to be independent from the other cliques and often do what is "uncool" before it becomes "cool".
Greasers - A rather uncommon clique but can be spotted in high schools all over the globe. This clique started in the late 40s and was popular up until the mid 60s but there are small cliques you can find who are Greasers. Hated by lots of kids and are teased but tease back (Give none take none is a motto by the Greasers meaning; don't take crap or create crap). Greasers wear leather jackets, dickies jackets, etc. and jeans cuffed 1-3 inches and grease their hair using pomade or a similar substance. They also can be spotted wearing vintage looking converse and "buckle boots" otherwise known as engineer boots.
scenesters – Also known as Trendies, they are ever eager to fit in. They are dedicated followers of fashion, devoted to a particular band, club or style. They dress in tight, fashionable clothing, wear sunglasses and sport wild but styled hairdos (striped, streaked or spiked). Social media platforms are totally essential to them. scenesters sometimes get labeled posers or wannabes.
preps – a subgenre of the popular clique. preps tend to be good at being social and having fun and usually come from an upper middle class or upper-class family. Sometimes they overlap with jocks, especially when it comes to sports. In most high schools, preps are those most commonly chosen to have important positions for school events such as Class Officers, Extracurricular Activities, Home Coming King/Queen, Prom King/Queen and Prom Court. Maintaining the right image may even make them vulnerable. Unlike the stereotype of "mean girls", preps often get along with everyone.
nerds – they are obsessed and often have superior knowledge or devotion to something, usually aren't fashion-conscious, may be introverted, and they often do well in school.
mean girls – the 2004 movie mean girls, starring Lindsay Lohan as a girl negotiating the jungles of teenage subcultures, put a new label on this type of teen. They always embrace the latest fashions. They form exclusive cliques and frequently engage in gossip. They crave popularity, often because they feel insecure; yet they have a hard time with genuine relationships.
Emo kids – highly emotional. Their emotions are reflected in their appearance: dark clothing, streaked bangs, and tattoos and piercings. The emo style has its roots in punk culture, which tended to be more rebellious, and goth, which was darker and gloomier. Some emos are described as scene kids because they wear brighter neon clothes. These kids are more vulnerable to depression or bipolar tendencies. They are known for experiments with self-injury and cutting, though not all of them do this. Emo kids tend to be mistaken for goth due to their dark outfits, or sometimes rockers being they often wear band t-shirts and have a lot of musical interests.
rockers – tend to stay away from the crowd and in small groups with similar interests in music. This is a very large clique because of how diverse it is. They tend to wear band T-shirts, lots of jewelry, and baggy or tight jeans and are usually listening to music. Many of them will be in a band or know an instrument. They live according to the Rock and Roll lifestyle: Sex, drugs, and music.
drifters – individuals that are capable of simultaneous interactions with one or more groups non-exclusively, or being independent at their own accord. They don't demand attention, often opting to blend in the background to avoid potential conflict or being labeled as part of a group. However, some usually don't mind being in the know with most gossips or rumors or learning things that no one else is aware of. All-Rounders play the neutral role most of the time. In some cases they act as a liaison between two different groups. As such, they are considered to be "well-known" rather than being "popular".
Within clique structure
A powerful, yet unstable social hierarchy structures interactions between group members in any given clique. This hierarchy is always topped by the highest-status member, labeled by psychologists as the "Leader" or "Queen Bee". In her now famous ethnography of adolescent cliques, Queen Bees and Wannabes, author Rosalind Wiseman explains the standard set of roles most frequently adopted by male and female clique members.
Queen Bee – Leader: rules by "charisma, force, money, looks, will, & manipulation".
Sidekick – Lieutenant: invariably supports the Queen Bee's opinions.
Banker – Gossip: collects and employs information for her own gain until part of clique, then works for benefit of Queen Bee and Sidekick.
Floater – Similar to a Liaison; closely associated with multiple cliques.
Pleaser – Can be in or out of clique: immediately adopts all of the Queen Bee and Sidekick's opinions, yet never gains their approval and is often treated with indifference by the Queen Bee.
Target – Outside of the clique; regularly excluded and humiliated.
Leader – Like the Queen Bee except well-respected: Athletic, tough, rich, & gets the girls.
Flunkie – Like the Pleaser, he does anything asked of him, but he also responds to any member. Inadvertently annoys others with his actions regularly.
Thug – Although often smarter than he lets on, the Thug communicates primarily through nonverbal bullying. He typically appears popular, but may have had a rough past or childhood.
The Get Wits – Groupies of male clique: respected by adults as high-achieving "good kids", but only unsought tag-a-longs to the clique.
Although too rigid to be entirely accurate across samples, these basic denominations are useful for discussing general behavior and organization within cliques. The role hierarchies within cliques are significantly more stable than the individual members. Maintaining one's status and power requires constant effort. Queen Bees and Leaders must work the hardest to protect their positions and typically become manipulative and disliked in the process. For example, a Leader or Queen Bee may keep objective attention off of him or herself by unpredictably alternating praise and criticism of other members (see relational aggression). They may also change the way the clique views activities, values, and opinions of things to keep the other members unsure of where they stand in the group."
The Leader or Queen Bee also maintains power over group membership-exercised through both tacit and explicit rejection of prospective members-as well as the final say in accepting new members, regardless of the opinions of other members. The majority of new memberships results from one of two approaches: invitation or application. The "invitation" approach originates within the clique: a current member of a clique invites a potential member either explicitly or by indirect socialization, which consists of the clique attempting to demonstrate the joys and benefits of membership. Aspiring peers who have not been invited can also "apply" by courting the lowest ranking members and progressing up to the Leader or Queen Bee who will decide whether to accept him or her.
Elements of popularity
Advanced and adaptable social skills are the best predictors of popularity, but further predictors of popularity are difficult to identify, primarily because the schema of "popularity" represents the interaction between two distinct concepts. Popularity breaks down into sociometric status (sometimes called "likability"), which measures peers' private feelings toward the individual, and perceived popularity, which reflects the individual's status, prestige, and power.
Socio-metric status is determined by fairly universally valuable characteristics including social skills, friendliness, and sense of humor. The foundations of perceived popularity, on the other hand, vary widely. Some popular adolescents are high in both characteristics, but they more often develop in distinct individuals and cliques, all considered "popular" during adolescence.
Regardless of popularity type, highly popular individuals influence local norms and behaviors in similar ways: "adolescents are easily swayed by the opinions of high-status peers to endorse activities they might otherwise reject and to run the other way from activities endorsed by low-status peers, even if they secretly enjoy them". The popular individuals themselves, however, fare differently depending on the root of their status. Several recent studies proved the discriminant validity of the two groups and found that perceived popularity in high school is predictive of alcohol use, sexual activity, and smoking. It may also be associated with a lasting drop in sociometric status. Several recent studies suggest that long-term outcomes are generally more positive for individuals who were neither Isolates nor among the most popular during adolescence.
Effect of Cliques on the Development of Psychopathology in Children
Researches have often conducted studies to determine whether membership to a clique produces positive or negative development. In one 4-year study of 451 children from age nine to twelve, Miranda Witvliet along with Pol A. C. van Lier, Mara Brendgen, Hans M. Koot, and Frank Vitaro examined longitudinal associations between clique membership status and internalizing and externalizing problems during late childhood. In this quasi-experiment the researchers aimed to discover if clique membership status was linked to increases in children's psychopathology.
Children from five different elementary schools in northwestern Quebec, Canada were the participants of this particular study. In the study, clique membership status was identified through social network analysis, and peer nominations were used to assess internalizing and externalizing problems. The study used the program Kliquefinder to identify clique membership status through social network analysis. Through use of behavioral descriptions on the Pupil Evaluation Inventory (PEI), peer nominations of externalizing and internalizing behaviors were obtained.