Thursday, December 22, 2011

Popular Teens, Friendly or Mean?

This past Saturday Dr. Lara Mayeau, a developmental psychologist, came in from Norman to speak to us about her research on teenage popularity. 

Dr. Mayeau explains that being popular is not the same thing as being well-liked.

We had a smaller than usual group - maybe the last weekend before Christmas Break people are busy? - BUT, it was a great group of kids and parents, full of really good questions and insights, as usual!

Dr. Mayeau's research has verified what many of us observed in school - that the popular kids are not necessarily well-liked. She also uses the mathematics of statistics to uncover some unexpected patterns, or correlations in teen popularity. 

For example, popular boys have an easier time staying well-liked than popular girls. Also, popular kids sometimes use physical or social aggression against other kids. These behaviors seem mostly to come about after popularity is achieved. Perhaps it's part of how they stay popular - or perhaps being popular, they can just get away with it more than other kids. (More studies are needed to really understand this!)

Yours truly, pontificating about something.

How does Dr. Mayeau uncover these patterns of teenage life? By asking! We all got to fill out a survey similar to the one she used in a longitudinal study of kids as they went from fifth grade through 9th. The survey includes a roster of names attached to codes. For each question we listed the codes of the kids who fit. The questions included: Who do you like? Who is popular? Who do you not like? Who pushes other kids? Who excludes other kids?

The difference with our survey was that the names on our roster were not fellow students, but famous actors, characters, athletes, musicians, etc - just for fun. Guess who was most often selected as popular but not well-liked? Justin Bieber. Ouch.

My usual photographer and lovely wife Lisa couldn't be with us on Saturday, so my daughter Evalyn stepped into the role. Thank you Evalyn, for taking photos!!

Really, Evalyn? Really?

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