Departmental Seminar Series: Adolescent (Anti)Social Networks
Dr Maarten van Zalk
Thursday, 20 November 2014, 12pm to 1pm
Lecture Theatre C, Experimental Psychology
Hosted by Professor Miles Hewstone
One of the most intriguing yet least understood observations concerning crime and aggression is that these behaviours show a dramatic change during adolescence, temporarily increasing to nearly ten-fold in prevalence. There is mounting evidence for social processes that may explain this increase, and in particular antisocial peer influence has been proposed as a large risk factor for increases in antisocial behaviours. Another line of research has focused on individual propensities toward antisocial behaviours, such as problematic personality traits that may lead to tendencies toward violent and aggressive behaviours. Recent developments in network studies offer new possibilities to unify these two lines of research, by allowing us to study how interactions between individual propensity toward antisocial behaviour and network dynamics interact to explain behavioural development. In addition, prosocial peer influence has received far less attention than negative peer influences. Three large, longitudinal network datasets are used from the European Collaborative Research Project “Social Influence in Dynamic Networks” to examine how network processes interact with individual characteristics to predict changes in individual behaviour. Findings from this project provide insight into interactions between social network processes and individual propensity toward antisocial behaviour. Friends’ aggressive behaviour toward immigrants increases the likelihood of adolescents’ increasing in this aggressive behaviour, particularly when adolescents have high problematic personality traits. Other results provide support for beneficial social network influences, suggesting that having indirect intergroup contact in peer networks facilitates tolerance toward ethnic minorities. Thus, a social network approach is presented as a fruitful approach to improved understanding of prosocial and antisocial peer influences.