Dr. Lynne Zarbatany
Westminster Hall 322 East
At present, my research team consists of two faculty collaborators (Wendy Ellis, Xinyin Chen), four graduate students (Lisa Boyko, Eugene Ji, Megan Kinal, Suzanne Seah), and several undergraduate students who are working on various projects related to peer group influences on behavior and adjustment in late childhood and early adolescence. Our research employs a variety of methods including self report questionnaires, sociometric nominations, social network analyses, and behavioral observations, in experimental and non-experimental research designs. The vast majority of our research is conducted in schools in and around London, and child participants are fairly accessible if the research topic is of interest to the school board and school personnel (as is the case with research on peer relationships). Data handling occurs in my lab space.
Because membership in peer groups is so important to older children and young adolescents, we believe that understanding variations in peer group experiences will help to explain children’s social and emotional well-being as well as their behavioral development. For example, peer groups differ in behavioral (e.g., aggressive, athletic), social (e.g., popular, unpopular), emotional (e.g., percentage of reciprocated friendships) and structural characteristics (e.g., hierarchical, egalitarian), and in interactional dynamics (e.g., cooperation, conflict). Within peer groups, group members differ in position within the group (e.g., high versus low status), personality characteristics (e.g., shy, aggressive), and commitment to the group. In multiple projects we are attempting to learn how some of these characteristics of groups and individuals combine to predict changes in youth well-being and behavior.
A sample of research questions that current students are pursuing include:
- Are all members of aggressive peer groups equally susceptible to group influence on aggressive behavior, or are peripheral (low status) members of peer groups more influenced than central (high status) members? (Megan Kinal)
- Do shy children behave shyly in their familiar peer groups or does their shyness fade away when among friends? Does the answer depend on the positivity or negativity of the peer groups’ interactions? (Eugene Ji)
- Does the psychological adjustment of children and early adolescents vary as a function of their status within their peer groups? Are members of high-status groups better adjusted than members of low status groups? Does aggressive behaviour serve an adaptive purpose within the peer group? For example, can aggression be used as a means of establishing and maintaining the peer group norms and boundaries? (Lisa Boyko)
- What kind of behavioral strategies are used by high and low group members to control a scarce resource, and how do dyadic relationships (friendships) within groups work in the interest of resource acquisition (All)?
In addition to the research questions related to peer groups described above, I have an abiding interest in the role of close friendship in children’s and adolescents’ well being, and related gender differences. For example, it would be of considerable interest to learn about how children’s behavior differs in friendship dyads and peer groups, how children resolve conflicts between group and friend demands, how friends may mitigate or exacerbate negative group influences, and how groups may contribute to the formation or dissolution of friendships.
Also from this web page: