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J Adolesc. 2011 Jun;34(3):493-504. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2010.06.001. Epub 2010 Jul 1.

Dimensions of adolescent subjective social status within the school community: description and correlates.

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MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, 4, Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow G12 8RZ, UK.


School pupils strive to meet both school-defined and social goals, and the structure of adolescent self-concept is multidimensional, including both academic and non-academic self-perceptions. However, subjective social status within the school community has been represented as a single dimension. Scottish 15-year olds participating in a school-based survey (N = 3194) rated their own status, compared to their school year-group, via images of seven 10-rung ladders. These generated a very high response rate, and factor analysis distinguished three dimensions: (1) ladders representing "popular", "powerful", "respected", "attractive or stylish" and "trouble-maker"; (2) "doing well at school" and "[not] a trouble-maker"; and (3) "sporty". Unique relationships with variables representing more objective and/or self-report behavioural measures suggest these dimensions are markers of "peer", "scholastic" and "sports" status. These analyses suggest multiple dimensions of adolescent social hierarchy can be very simply measured and contribute towards the development of more robust instruments within this area.

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