Adolescent Academic Achievement and School Engagement: An Examination of the Role of Student Peer Culture.
Abstract: A link between peer relationships and academic outcomes can be
observed as early as elementary school (Buhs 2005; Kindermann, 2007). During adolescence,
peers become a particularly salient context in the lives of students, rivaling the role of
parents in their ability to influence youth outcomes (Brown & Larson, 2009). This
manuscript expands on extant research, which identifies ... read moresignificant links between
adolescents' immediate peer groups and academic outcomes, proposing that within each school
exists a school-wide peer culture that is comprised of two interacting components (a
relational and a behavioral component) that are related to individual academic outcomes.
The relational component of peer culture describes students' perceptions of the quality of
peer relationships within each school. The behavioral component is an aggregate
representation of students' actual behaviors in regard to academic tasks (e.g., engagement
in the classroom, Grade Point Average). Using two data sets, the 4-H Study of Positive
Youth Development (4-H Study), and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health
(Add Health), I explored the idea that during adolescence, the relational and behavioral
components of a school's peer culture are related to students' academic achievement and
school engagement. Results suggested that above and beyond a variety of individual,
familial, peer, and school characteristics that have previously been associated with
academic outcomes, aspects of behavioral peer culture are associated with individual
achievement while components of both relational and behavioral peer culture are related to
school engagement. These results are discussed in light of recent developments in
adolescent intervention strategies and school reform.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2011.
Submitted to the Dept. of Child Development.
Advisors: Richard Lerner, and Tama Leventhal.
Committee: Jonathan Zaff, and Rebekah Coley.
Keywords: Developmental Psychology, and Educational Psychology.read less