Adolescents' Social Status Goals: Relationships to Social Status Insecurity, Aggression, and Prosocial Behavior

Yan Li, Michelle F. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Peer status is an important aspect of adolescents' social lives and is pursued actively by them. Although extensive research has examined how social behaviors are related to peer status (e.g., social preference, popularity), little attention has been given to adolescents' social goals to obtain a desired peer status. Thus, this study examined two types of social status goals, popularity goal and social preference goal, and their relationships to social status insecurity and social behaviors among 405 ethnically diverse early adolescents (267 girls; M age = 12.92 years; age range = 11-15 years). After accounting for adolescents' attained peer statuses (popularity and social preference), both social status goals were related distinctly to aggressive and prosocial behaviors as measured by self reports and peer nominations. Specifically, higher endorsement of the popularity goal was related to more self-reported relational aggression, but less peer-nominated prosocial behavior. In contrast, higher endorsement of the social preference goal was linked to less self-reported overt and relational aggression, but more self-reported and peer-nominated prosocial behavior. In addition, this study reveals that adolescents' social status insecurity was related positively to both social status goals and had an indirect effect on adolescents' social behaviors through the mediation of popularity goal endorsement. There were variations in goal endorsement as shown by groups of adolescents endorsing different levels of each goal. The group comparison results on social behaviors were largely consistent with the correlational findings. This study provides new insights into adolescents' social cognitive processes about peer status and the implications of the two social status goals on adolescents' behavioral development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-160
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of youth and adolescence
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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