A social network perspective on formation of peer relationships in Czech lower-secondary classrooms

❝Peer relationships in lower-secondary classrooms play a crucial part in students’ academic and personal lives. This study uses social network analysis to investigate aspects influencing formation of both likeability and antipathy ties between students in Czech lower-secondary schools, with a special focus on the role on socioeconomic status. Data and research design employing exponential random graph models (ERGMs) allow researchers to explore roles of SES, gender, and several other structural network variables simultaneously. Using cross-sectional data from 435 students in 21 classrooms, this study suggests that high-SES students tend to receive more likeability ties and less antipathy ties compared to others. The overall results do not suggest a tendency of students to give preference to same-SES peers, however, SES homophily was found significant in 2 of the 21 sample classrooms. Additionally, this study confirms the effects of gender homophily, mutuality, transitivity, and preferential attachment on formation of peer relationships. The effects of SES seem to be related to the effect of mutuality, with networks with high mutuality effect not influenced by the effects of SES.❞

In this study, I explored the influence of students’ family SES on their relationships with peers in classroom. High-SES students tended to receive more likeability ties and less antipathy ties compared to others. This suggests that students’ SES influences their school lifes beyond the well-known effects on academic performance and motivation.

Peer relationships in lower-secondary classrooms play an important part in students’ academic and personal lives. Good peer relationships in classrooms were found to positively influence students’ emotional well-being, school engagement, and academic achievement. Low social acceptance was also found to be related to unexplained school absences. Moreover, peer rejection in school was related to long-term psychological adjustment in adolescence and mental health problems in early adulthood. It is therefore important to pay attention to aspects influencing formation of peer relationships, as understanding these aspects may help to alleviate negative effects stemming from poor relationships with peers.

I used a non-probability sample containing data from 435 ninth grade (ISCED 2A) 14 to 15-year-old students in 21 classrooms in 14 lower-secondary schools in the Moravia Region of the Czech Republic, with data collected in November and December of 2017 as a part of a larger project – GA17-03643S. I used a standardised sociometric questionnaire designed for assessment of likeability between students in classrooms to reconstruct cross-sectional directed peer social networks at the time of the measurement.

I employed same exponential random graph model for each classroom and I pooled the results from the individual classrooms in a meta-analysis using maximum likelihood estimation which yielded estimates of the overall effects across the classrooms.

SES popularity plays a part in formation of both likeability and antipathy relationships. SES homophily plays part in some classrooms. The effects of SES on peer relationships seem to be related to the level of reciprocity on likeability ties in classroom.