The Emergence of Multiple Status Systems in Adolescent Communities: a multiplex network theory of group formation

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


How do informal groups emerge in adolescent communities? What distinguishes a group from just a set of students? Who will end up together in a group and who will be left out? Why are there more groups in some classrooms and fewer in others? What determines whether these groups overlap in their members or they are completely segregated, perhaps antagonistic? While a huge body of research in sociology and social psychology focuses on these questions, an integrated approach that is able to answer all of them is yet to be developed. Without realizing that these five issues are interrelated, we cannot hope to understand how groups influence individuals and how they shape our communities. This thesis proposes an integrative theory of informal group formation in communities. Based on the tradition of Social Network Analysis, it develops a framework in which interpersonal relations and reputations are formed through a process called informal status production. Groups emerge from this micro-process by the alignment of positive relations and agreement in peer-perceptions between actors. The main micro-mechanisms predicted by the theory are tested on a unique longitudinal network dataset from school classrooms. To this end, a new empirical procedure was developed, by which a few aggregated networks can be constructed from tens of relational items. This allows the analysis of rich network data with several relational dimensions. The empirical studies of multiplex network dynamics confirm that there are strong interdependencies between friendships and perceptions. Students who agree about their peers tend to become friends, but more so when they hold a minority opinion in the class. This contributes to group formation. Friends also influence each other's perceptions, but we manage to show that the presence of groups around them interferes with this process by moderating the influence of individual peers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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