Conceptualizations of Popularity in Emerging Adulthood
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Peer status in children and adolescents has been well-studied. Conversely, how this construct presents in emerging adulthood has received little attention. The current study investigated the conceptualization of popularity in adulthood, as well as the self-reported behavioral profiles of popular and unpopular individuals. Participants were 254 college undergraduates aged 17 through 23 who were recruited from a large university in a small Midwestern city. They completed self-report measures of peer status, as well as measures of their social dominance orientation, relational aggression, physical aggression, and prosociality. Overall, self-reported popularity was significantly, positively correlated with social acceptance, visibility, prosociality, and alcohol use. A separate group of 219 participants aged 18 to 25 generated responses to open-ended questions of what it means to be a popular/unpopular girl/guy in college. Both popular females and males were described most positively for their physical appearance, peer interactions, competencies, and prosocial behavior. Unpopular females were described most negatively for their physical appearance and peer interactions, while unpopular males were described most negatively for their peer interactions and competencies. How these findings compare to research on adolescents was discussed.
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