Social Networks Over Time and Space in Adolescence
Robert B. Cairns Man-Chi Leung Beverley D. Cairns University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Peer influence and peer-group membership have long been implicated by sociologists as factors in antisocial and delinquent behaviors (e.g., A. K. Cohen, 1955). Peer effects continue to be seen in accounts of juvenile crime. A recent report of the National Youth Study concludes that deviant peergroup bonding is the primary factor in adolescent delinquency ( Elliott, Huizinga, & Menard, 1989). However, focus on peer social networks has not been historically mirrored by research in developmental psychology. In this regard, Hartup ( 1983) concluded that only modest attention had been given to social-group affiliations beyond the dyad in childhood and adolescence.
That state of affairs in developmental research appears to be in the process of change, thanks to the efforts of several researchers in adolescence. Beginning in the early 1980s, exploratory efforts have been made to address diverse phenomena of social development from the perspective of social networks. A sampling of these new proposals includes the following.
Self-Cconcepts and Identity. Following the pioneering work of Youniss ( 1980), there has been explicit recognition of the role of social groups and peer friendships in the establishment and maintenance of social perceptions and social values, including ideas about the self and the attributions of others ( Cairns & Cairns, 1988, 1995; Youniss & Smollar, 1985). This constitutes a fresh line of inquiry into an old issue, and it calls for the critical reexamination of the broadly held, but rarely tested, proposal that "each of us is in part someone else, even in his own thought of himself"