Journal of Adolescence 2001, 24, 597–609

doi:10.1006/jado.2000.0392, available online at on

Social identity in adolescence

Social identity theory (SIT) was used to investigate the effects of social categorization
on adolescents’ intergroup behaviour. One hundred and forty-nine male adolescents
aged 14–15 years made comparisons between an ingroup and an outgroup along a
series of dimensions. Participants displayed consistent ingroup-favouring behaviour in
their ratings: the ingroup was associated to a greater extent than the outgroup with
positively valued dimensions, and to a lesser extent with negatively valued dimensions.
Those participants who demonstrated the most discrimination reported highest levels
of ingroup identification. The utility of applying predictions from SIT to the study of
adolescence is discussed.
# 2001 The Association for Professionals in Services for Adolescents

A large number of studies indicate that adolescence is a period when group behaviour is very
apparent (e.g. Coleman, 1974; Steinberg and Silverberg, 1986; Palmonari et al., 1989, 1990),
and it is often suggested that peer group membership is beneficial for social development and
general feelings of self worth (Palmonari et al., 1990; Buhrmester, 1992; Heaven, 1994;
Cotterell, 1996). However, our understanding of exactly how peer groups provide such
benefits is still rather limited. The study reported in the present paper explored these
processes. Specifically, it examined how male adolescents’ involvement with their peer groups
helps them maintain a positive social identity.
Susceptibility to peer pressure is reported to peak between the ages of 12–16 years
(Costanzo and Shaw, 1966; Coleman, 1974; Berndt, 1979; Steinberg and Silverberg, 1986).
At the same time the peer group is often perceived to be relatively impermeable, a perception
which helps convey status amongst the group members (Gavin and Furman, 1989).
Adolescents are also very aware of the differential social status conferred upon different
groups, and this knowledge can affect self-evaluation: categorization of the self as a member
of an unpopular or lower status group can be detrimental to feelings of self-worth and self-
esteem (Brown and Lohr, 1987; see Buhrmester, 1992; Denholm et al., 1992). However,
decisions about group status (or whatever is being evaluated) cannot be made in isolation
from other social groups: group status is a relative attribute and as such relies upon social
comparisons with other groups of higher or lower status than one’s own (see Oakes et al.,
1994). The ability of the peer group to generate feelings of self-worth in its members thus
depends ultimately upon the positive evaluation of the group by the members in a
comparative context.
Relatively little is known about how adolescents use social comparisons to form positive
evaluations of their peer groups, and social identity theory (SIT: Tajfel, 1978; Tajfel and
Turner, 1979) might well be informative in this regard. SIT argues that a positive evaluation

Reprint requests and correspondence should be addressed to: Mark Tarrant, School of Psychology, University of
Leicester, U.K. (E-mail:

0140-1971/01/050597+13 $3500/0 # 2001 The Association for Professionals in Services for Adolescents

a consistent finding of minimal group research has been that participants are unwilling to discriminate along negative dimensions. Surprisingly however.. 1994. For example. see also Singh et al. Billig and Tajfel. Wenzel and Mummendey. 1992. This approach involves dividing participants into two groups on the basis of a supposedly unrelated task (such as a painting preference) and then asking them to distribute resources to members of the ingroup and outgroup. when intergroup behaviour has been investigated in more realistic social contexts participants have been shown to be equally willing to discriminate along both positive and negative dimensions (Branscombe and Wann.... 1989).g. It is possible that adolescents in an intergroup context might strive to distinguish between their peer groups by perceiving their own group more positively than an outgroup. Tarrant et al. In contrast. Cotterell. 1978).. The present study investigated the intergroup behaviour of real adolescent peer groups in a meaningful intergroup context. 1989. positive ingroup evaluations are achieved along dimensions that are relevant for group definition: there is little or no benefit to be gained from social comparisons along dimensions that do not contribute to social identity (see also Mummendey and Schreiber.. 1994. Tajfel et al. Many of SIT’s assumptions have been based upon research conducted using the so-called ‘‘minimal group paradigm’’ (MGP) procedure (e. the artificial nature of this procedure has recently been criticised. 1979). 1973. Cotterell. and instead tend to distribute resources equally among the ingroup and outgroup (Mummendey et al.g. 1995). 1996 for exceptions). Positive social identity and self-esteem are maintained through comparisons that distinguish the ingroup from the outgroup and portray the ingroup as somehow ‘‘better off’’ than the outgroup (see Tajfel. such group defining attributes might be multiple in number. and this differentiation might be a valuable means by which adolescents secure social identity and self-esteem (cf. Such a discrepancy between findings of MGP studies and studies conducted in more realistic settings has led some researchers to conclude that the effects of social categorization on intergroup discrimination may only be fully determined when the categorization is genuine and meaningful (see Hunter et al. Indeed. such as in competitive situations) highly identified individuals are motivated to protect that identity through increased discrimination because that identity makes an important contribution to their self-concept (Mummendey et al. Palmonari et al. . Howard and Rothbart.. 1996). As noted by Turner et al. research that has used adolescents as participants has tended instead to describe findings in the context of general intergroup relations (e. 1971.. it is likely that SIT is particularly well placed to explain adolescents’ group behaviour.598 M. see also Reynolds et al. 1996. Since adolescents are often strongly affiliated with their peer groups (Gavin and Furman.. 1996). 1971. and as such the MGP is likely to be of limited heuristic value when attempting to understand real adolescent peer groups.. A pivotal factor affecting intergroup discrimination appears to be the degree to which group members value their group membership.. When faced with a potential threat to identity (e. Tajfel et al. 1983). However. see also Noel et al. see Kirchler et al. although such research is of course valuable. 1989. the theory is not often used explicitly to further our understanding of the adolescent process (Gavin and Furman.. 1989. and in some instances report higher levels of group identification than adults (Liebkind. 1990. 1998). 1992. 1980). Sherif et al. In adolescence. 1983. Mummendey and Simon.g.. 1961). Hunter et al. 2000). Branscombe and Wann. 1994. (1979). of one’s own group (the ingroup) can only be achieved through comparisons with groups of which one is not a member (outgroups) along dimensions that are important for group definition (Turner et al. 1996).

Most notably. These predictions can be summarized in the form of the following hypotheses: (1) Participants should associate the ingroup to a greater extent than the outgroup with dimensions that are valued positively by their peer group. there should be most discrimination on dimensions that are valued most positively and most negatively since these dimensions are likely to make the greatest contribution to group definition (cf.e.g. it should competently predict the behaviour of male groups in the first instance. Reynolds et al. and have been shown to engage in higher levels of aggressive and competitive behaviour with others (Maccoby and Jacklin. 1980. In contrast. Hunter et al. Sebald. Turner et al. 2000). the present study necessarily was somewhat exploratory. 1992). 1996. Fitzgerald et al. 1996). This discrimination should extend equally to stimuli that are valued positively and negatively (cf. and instead focus on developing intimate interpersonal relationships with one or two close friends (Savin-Williams. 1995). it is possible that adolescents will use the evaluative connotations associated with such activities as a means of distinguishing between groups in order to maintain a positive social identity. this research suggests that if SIT is to prove valuable to the study of adolescence at all. Mummendey and Simon. 1989. 1987.. Reynolds et al.. it was expected that the participants would seek to distinguish between the groups along those dimensions that were valuable for group definition.. 1992. Social identity in adolescence 599 since adolescents often display interest in a variety of activities.g. and musical activities (e. Since SIT has infrequently been used to predict adolescents’ group behaviour. and thus would be especially motivated to protect and enhance their identity by engaging in behaviour which secures a positive evaluation of the ingroup.. 1989). previous research has indicated that compared to males. males often regard their groups as more cohesive and less permeable than do females. The available literature suggests that any positive benefits of intergroup discrimination in adolescence might be especially prominent in male peer groups.. 1979. and so for the purposes of the present study we decided to focus on males only. 1990. i. 1989). female adolescents are less likely to rely on the support of the peer group as a whole. 1974. and further should be moderated by the degree of valence of those stimuli. In order to maintain a positive social identity. a major aim of the study was simply to confirm whether or not the study of adolescence could be enhanced from a social identity perspective.. In this sense. Archer. More simply. it was anticipated that the adolescents’ discriminatory behaviour would be positively related to their degree of identification with the ingroup. 1996. Following the methodologies employed in previous tests of social identity theory (e. On the basis of such research we expected that male adolescents in particular would form strong group identifications. . Zarbatany et al. Garton and Pratt. (2) Participants should associate the ingroup to a lesser extent than the outgroup with dimensions that are valued negatively by their peer group. Zarbatany and Pepper. (3) The degree of ingroup favouritism should be equivalent for dimensions of positive and negative valence. 1987. 1989. Gavin and Furman.. 2000). Youniss and Haynie. including sports. with those adolescents who engage in most discrimination reporting highest levels of identification. educational. Palmonari et al. Finally. we asked a sample of male adolescents to make comparisons between an ingroup and an outgroup along a variety of dimensions. To the extent that participation in these activities in part is likely to be influenced by an adolescent’s peers (Gavin and Furman.

S. ‘‘they are good at football’’. 10=‘‘this statement does describe them/us very well’’. and also general evaluative traits. 1987. The second section of the response sheet presented participants with the 26 items that were used to construct the statements in Section 1.600 M. (5) There should be a negative relationship between the degree of desirability of negatively valued dimensions and the degree of ingroup favouritism along those dimensions. Larson et al. was constructed for inclusion in the study. Design and materials A list of 26 statements about the activities and interests that adolescents might or might not be involved with. six statements were adapted from . ‘‘they do not enjoy reading school books’’). these items were selected following consultation with a local radio station. 0=‘‘this statement does not describe them/us very well’’.K. 1994. On the scales. To determine the participants’ degree of confidence in these ratings. or concerned with. 10=completely agree).=0?40) took part in the study. Method Participants One hundred and forty-nine year-10 pupils aged 14–15 years (M=14?19. Fitzgerald et al. Garton and Pratt. and 5=‘‘midway between the two’’.. 2000).. 10=‘‘very desirable’’. The final section of the response sheet addressed the level of identification with the ingroup. To ensure currency of the music items. On the scale.. ‘‘how desirable does your peer group believe it is to listen to classical music?’’). Each statement was presented such that it could be used to describe either members of the outgroup or members of the ingroup (e.g. (4) There should be a positive relationship between the degree of desirability of positively valued dimensions and the degree of ingroup favouritism along those dimensions. they were also asked to state how much they thought the ingroup would agree with their ratings (0=completely disagree. The participants were all male and attended a single-sex comprehensive school situated in the suburbs of a city in the West Midlands region of the U. 1989. They were asked to estimate how desirable or undesirable their group believed each interest or activity to be (e. and included sporting interests/ activities. Van Wel. Tarrant et al. As a broad measure of group identification.g.g. The list comprised statements about social and passive pursuits. Participants were asked to indicate how well each statement described the ingroup and the outgroup using eleven-point scales. 0=‘‘very undesirable’’. 13 of which were considered to be of positive valence and 13 of which were considered to be of negative valence (cf. The items were chosen initially from a pool of 40 items that were derived from several sources. ‘‘how desirable does your group believe it is to be good at swimming?’’. 1995). and 5=‘‘midway between the two’’. Reynolds et al. (6) There should be a positive relationship between ingroup favouritism and identification with the ingroup.D. The first section of the response sheet addressed the intergroup evaluations of the adolescents. including previous research into adolescents’ leisure behaviour and media use (e. Consultation with a small sample of adolescent associates of the researchers (n=10) reduced this pool to a list of 26 items. music and other media interests.

Z2=0?962). this scale is intended to measure individuals’ collective self-esteem that is derived from their social group memberships. They were told that the group could comprise members from their own school.g. The scales were coded on analysis so that a low score equalled low identification. They were then asked to think about a group of which they were not members. was counterbalanced across the testing sessions. Instructions for each section of the response sheet were written on the response sheet and these were verbally reinforced by one of the experimenters. Results Valence manipulation check Consultation with the small sample of adolescents prior to the study identified items of positive and negative valence that were used to construct the materials for the main study. The mean of the positive items (M=7?49 (1?29)) was significantly higher than the mean of the negative items (M=2?62 (1?19): t (142)=39?73. from a different school. p50?001. and any that scored significantly lower than the midpoint could be considered negative. Crocker and Luhtanen. and the participants were debriefed after all sessions were completed. and p values between 0?036 and 50?001). The ordering of the first two sections (intergroup evaluation and group desirability ratings). 1994. and the two non-significant items dropped from subsequent analyses. Social identity in adolescence 601 Luhtanen and Crocker’s (1992) collective self-esteem scale (see Table 3). It has been shown to have good validity and reliability (see also Crocker and Luhtanen. They then completed the three sections of the response sheet. Related t-tests confirmed that 13 of the 26 items were significantly higher than the midpoint. Hence. any items that scored close to that midpoint for desirability could not be considered to be either positively or negatively valued by the ingroup (see Reynolds et al. Luhtanen and Crocker. Since the scale midpoint of 5 was the neutral point of the scale. Procedure Class sizes and timetable commitments dictated that the study took place over two days. 2000). The sessions lasted between 35 and 40 minutes. df between 146 and 148. A further check of item valence was performed by comparing the mean desirability score of the positive and negative items. . 2000).. and 11 were significantly lower than the midpoint (t values between 2?11 (‘‘always follow teachers’ instructions’’) and 30?82 (‘‘be fun’’). 1990. 10=‘‘completely agree’’). The significant items were therefore categorized as being positively or negatively valued accordingly (see Tables 1 and 2). Participants were also confident that the ingroup would agree with their ratings of desirability: mean confidence rating=7?14 (1?68). 1990. Branscombe and Wann. or a mix of both. items that scored significantly higher than the midpoint for desirability could be considered positive. and has been used successfully in previous social identity research (e. De Cremer and Oosterwegel. Participants in the present study were required to indicate the degree to which they agreed or disagreed with each statement on 11- point scales (0=‘‘completely disagree’’. and the order in which the groups were rated (ingroup–outgroup/outgroup–ingroup). In its original form. but which was similar in composition to their own group. The participants were firstly asked to think about a group of 5–9 same-sex friends with whom they spent most of their time. Two items did not differ significantly from the midpoint (‘‘be good at swimming’’ and ‘‘be good at rugby’’). It was firstly necessary to confirm the valence of these items. 1992).

141)=6?22. p=0?019. Post hoc t-tests indicated that this interaction was attributable to ratings assigned to the outgroup: the outgroup was rated more favourably when it was rated after the ingroup than when it was rated before the ingroup (M=6?37 (1?32) and M=5?45 (1?67). Z2=0?038. respectively). 136)=18?13. p=0?005. There was a main effect of target group: F (1. p50?001. Z2=0?057. Z2=0?118. the participants evaluated the groups less favourably when the outgroup was rated before the ingroup than vice versa. Intergroup evaluations To test the effect of stimulus valence on intergroup discrimination (Hypotheses 1 and 2) a mean of the positively valued items and a mean of the negatively valued items were calculated for the ingroup and outgroup and separately analysed with a 2 (section order)62 (group rating order)62 (target group) ANOVA. There was also an interaction between group rating order and target group: F (1. 141)=56?80. 136)=8?16. and results of individual t-tests for positive valence items (and S.602 M. there was a main effect of group rating order: F (1. Tarrant et al. the outgroup was rated Table 1 Mean ratings assigned to ingroup and outgroup. p50?001. the participants made more favourable ratings of the groups when the ingroup was rated before the outgroup than when the outgroup was rated before the ingroup.D. with repeated measures on the latter variable. respectively: t (143)=3?72. For ratings assigned to the positively valued items. p50?001. 141)=5?62. p=0?014. the ingroup was rated more favourably than the outgroup (M=7?25 (1?25) and M=5?92 (1?56). Z2=0?088). A series of related t-tests was also conducted to compare the ratings of the ingroup and outgroup on each individual comparison dimension. There was also a main effect of target group: F (1. Z2=0?042. For ratings assigned to the negatively valued items. Z2=0?287. there was a main effect of group rating order: F (1. All of the mean ratings were in the expected direction and eight were significant (Table 1).) Item Mean Mean for Mean for t df p desirability ingroup outgroup rating Fun 8?81 (1?50) 8?61 (1?88) 5?07 (3?35) 10?83 146 50?001 Wear fashionable clothes 8?57 (1?67) 6?14 (4?06) 5?50 (3?73) 1?79 148 0?075 Enjoy watching comedy 7?89 (1?94) 8?17 (1?84) 6?53 (2?30) 7?44 148 50?001 programmes/films Popular with others 7?87 (2?15) 7?72 (2?09) 5?75 (3?23) 5?98 148 50?001 Enjoy listening to ‘‘pop’’ 7?54 (2?57) 7?69 (2?65) 6?58 (2?66) 4?16 147 50?001 music Good at computer/video 7?52 (2?34) 8?27 (1?91) 6?37 (2?81) 6?71 148 50?001 games Enjoy watching action 7?46 (2?19) 6?79 (2?92) 6?38 (2?91) 1?41 148 0?160 films Enjoy listening to ‘‘dance’’ 7?44 (2?73) 6?95 (2?93) 5?86 (2?96) 3?82 148 50?001 music Intelligent 7?18 (2?28) 7?34 (2?11) 5?08 (3?12) 6?83 148 50?001 Good at football 7?05 (2?71) 6?98 (2?63) 6?56 (3?00) 1?02 148 0?309 Knowledgeable about 6?89 (2?69) 7?14 (2?71) 5?63 (2?97) 5?40 148 50?001 current music fashions Enjoy watching music 6?77 (2?60) 6?36 (3?76) 5?82 (3?14) 1?62 147 0?108 TV programmes Enjoy watching sports 6?43 (2?89) 5?88 (4?02) 5?60 (3?78) 0?67 148 0?506 programmes .

D.) Item Mean Mean for Mean for t df p desirability ingroup outgroup rating Enjoy listening to ‘‘country 0?83 (1?78) 0?52 (1?36) 1?82 (3?13) 5?32 148 50?001 and western’’ music Enjoy listening to 0?83 (1?94) 0?73 (2?07) 1?65 (3?22) 3?42 147 0?001 ‘‘classical’’ music Boring 0?97 (2?18) 2?85 (3?51) 5?36 (3?72) 6?01 148 50?001 Enjoy listening to ‘‘jazz’’ 1?40 (2?09) 1?07 (2?32) 1?90 (2?83) 3?63 146 50?001 music Enjoy reading school 2?13 (2?48) 4?38 (3?85) 5?05 (3?86) 2?19 148 0?030 books Enjoy watching current 2?66 (2?41) 1?82 (2?38) 2?67 (3?25) 3?36 146 0?001 affairs programmes Enjoy watching romantic 3?26 (2?66) 3?37 (2?90) 3?71 (3?08) 1?34 148 0?184 comedies Enjoy listening to ‘‘indie’’ 3?69 (3?26) 5?34 (3?39) 4?88 (3?01) 1?46 148 0?148 music Often go on family outings 4?26 (2?57) 3?88 (2?71) 3?77 (2?77) 0?39 146 0?699 Good at hockey 4?40 (2?65) 5?46 (2?74) 5?03 (2?74) 1?62 146 0?107 Always follow teachers’ 4?55 (2?60) 4?98 (2?67) 4?67 (3?27) 0?88 146 0?383 instructions . The participants reported more ingroup favouritism when the ingroup was rated after the outgroup. Ingroup favouritism As is common in social identity research. 1989). than when it was rated before the outgroup (M=1?34 (1?89) and M=0?64 (1?35). 132)=4?55. There was a main effect of group rating order: F (1. 132)=14?69. There was a main effect of stimulus valence: F (1. with repeated measures on the latter variable. Participants reported more ingroup favouritism on the positively valued items than on the negatively valued items (M=1?33 (2?00) and M=0?57 (1?83). p=0?035. and results of individual t-tests for negative valence items (and S. p=0?037. respectively). the difference score between the rating of the ingroup and the outgroup on each comparison dimension was firstly calculated to determine the degree of ingroup favouritism (see Mummendey and Simon. Post hoc t-tests indicated that for positively valued items. There was also an interaction between group rating order and stimulus valence: F (1. Individual t-tests further confirmed this main effect. Z2=0?033. For positively valued items this consisted of subtracting the outgroup ratings from the ingroup ratings. respectively). All resulting positive scores thus represented ingroup favouritism. For negatively valued items this consisted of subtracting the ingroup ratings from the outgroup ratings. ingroup favouritism was higher when the ingroup Table 2 Mean ratings assigned to ingroup and outgroup. p50?001. Z2=0?100. the mean ingroup favouritism score for the positively valued items and the mean ingroup favouritism score for the negatively valued items were compared with a 2 (section order)62 (group rating order)62 (stimulus valence) ANOVA. and all negative scores represented outgroup favouritism. 132)=4?43. Six of these were significant and in the expected direction (Table 2). Z2=0?032. Social identity in adolescence 603 less favourably than the ingroup (M=3?68 (1?73) and M=3?11 (1?12). respectively). To test the effect of stimulus valence on ingroup favouritism (Hypothesis 3).

p=0?003 for negatively valued items. and this indicates that the participants identified with their peer group. p=0?002 for negatively valued items.89) and M=0?64 (1?35). by definition this approach included items that varied somewhat in their degree of valence. The participants reported greater ingroup favouritism when the outgroup was rated before the ingroup than when it was rated after the ingroup (M=1?34 (1. and p=0?047: the more desirable the item. correlations were also performed for each of the two levels of this variable. This effect was not apparent for negatively valued items.604 M. The above analysis included all items that differed significantly from the scale midpoint for desirability. Table 3 displays the mean values assigned to the group identification items.D. N=13. The above ANOVA was therefore repeated using the mean ingroup favouritism score for those items scoring above 7?5 for positive valence. Tarrant et al. was rated after the outgroup (M=1?77 (2?35)) than when it was rated before the outgroup (M=0?92 (1?51)): t (143)=2?62. and those scoring below 2?5 for negative valence. For participants who evaluated the ingroup before the outgroup. n=13. Whilst providing a broad indication of the adolescents’ intergroup discrimina- tion. N=11. 139)=5?78. others respect my group 6?66 (2?45) Belonging to this group is an important reflection of who I am 7?02 (2?46) *Items reverse scored for analysis. It was possible that the effects of stimulus valence on ingroup favouritism would be different if the analysis included only those dimensions that were either very positively or very negatively valued. All values were above the scale midpoint of 5. p=0?010. None of the effects involving stimulus valence were significant. the more ingroup favouritism was displayed for that item. Group identification The final analysis examined the relationship between ingroup favouritism and ingroup identification. r=70?86 (r2=0?74). the more ingroup favouritism was displayed for that item.) Identification item Mean I am glad to be a member of this group 8?61 (1?86) I feel I do not have much to offer my group* 7?08 (2?60) I regret that I belong to this group* 8?78 (2?09) I am a worthy member of my group 7?86 (1?97) In general. r=0?56 (r2=0?31). and p=0?001: the less desirable the item. respectively). p=0?023 for positively valued items. and r=70?80 (r2=0?64). and r=0?41 (r2=0?17). Hypotheses 4 and 5 were tested by calculating the Pearson correlation coefficient between ratings of item desirability and scores for ingroup favouritism for positive and negative dimensions separately. This analysis revealed just one significant main effect of group rating order: F (1. N=11. N=13. Z2=0?046. . For participants who evaluated the outgroup before the ingroup. Since the earlier analyses had revealed main effects of group rating order. Z2=0?040. p=0?160 for positively valued items. N=11. r=70?83 (r2=0?69). For negatively valued items. and so the analysis of group identification effects was conducted using the mean of the five contributing scale items. For positively valued items. Table 3 Mean group identification (and S. r=0?62 (r2=0?38). p=0?018. Reliability analysis of the scale using Cronbach’s alpha revealed an acceptable degree of internal consistency (alpha=0?66).

Mummendey et al.. and ingroup favouritism. questionnaire section order. activities and attributes that are important to them in structuring their intergroup relations. and to be more ‘‘boring’’ than the ingroup (see Table 2). and enjoyed comedy programmes and so on more than the outgroup (see Table 1). other peer groups might value different defining criteria). (2000).50. the current participants were able to maintain a sense of positive distinctiveness from their outgroups by engaging in social comparisons with those groups. to enjoy listening to classical music more than the ingroup. 1992). a finding which reflects that of much ‘‘minimal group’’ research (e. and they used their orientation towards a variety of interests and activities to achieve this goal. Brake. 1985.g. including sporting abilities. and similarly suggests that group members equally discriminate between groups along positive and negative dimensions when those dimensions are legitimate means of evaluating groups. the degree to which those dimensions are valued positively or negatively is also important. For positively valued dimensions. However. This analysis revealed an ingroup favouritism effect which was more pronounced along the positive dimensions than along the negative ones. participants indicated that their own group was ‘‘better off’’ than the outgroup.001). The significant correlations that were observed between ingroup favouritism and item desirability indicate that participants were motivated to engage in increased discrimination along dimensions that were valued . wore more fashionable clothes. p50. Social identity in adolescence 605 Multiple regression analysis was performed to test the relationship between ingroup favouritism and identity (entering the participants’ identity score as the dependent variable. and p50?001. Amongst other things. the present study also extends this work by indicating that it is not only a matter of identifying positive and negative dimensions. what has been shown here is that adolescents use these valued dimensions in order to distinguish between groups and therefore maintain a positive social identity. that participants were willing to discriminate along such a variety of interests/activities suggests that adolescents’ social groups are defined by multiple attributes. TV. However. F (3. and group rating order as predictor variables): R=0?41 (R2=0?17). The analysis of ingroup favouritism was conducted initially using all 24 of the interest and activity items.e. However. Cotterell. The essential finding is that adolescents use those interests. when the analysis was repeated using only those items scoring above 7?5 for positive valence and below 2?5 for negative valence (thus ensuring that all items were either very positively or very negatively valued). This finding is consistent with the work of Reynolds et al. they reported that the ingroup was more fun. Discussion Whilst the benefits of peer group membership for social development are often stated. ingroup favouritism extended equally along positive and negative domains. 131)=8?78. This study has highlighted one such mechanism. the outgroup was assumed to enjoy listening to country and western music more than the ingroup. As predicted by social identity theory. the mechanism by which these benefits are realised is less frequently explored. and other media preferences (cf. It is of course possible that attributes other than those considered here would contribute differentially to adolescents’ social identity in other samples (i. The opposite effect was observed for negatively valued dimensions: here the outgroup was reported to be ‘‘worse off’’ than the ingroup. The other variables did not make any additional contribution to the prediction of the participants’ identity. The only significant predictor of identity was ingroup favouritism (t (131)=1. In short. 1996).

g. as expected. Tarrant et al. and consequently are likely to identify with the social categorization to a greater degree than those in ad hoc laboratory groups (cf. it is possible that being made to focus initially on an outgroup heightened the salience of the comparative context. Whilst the measure of identification was taken after the group comparison task. 1997). Whilst admittedly speculative. Kamptner. Branscombe and Wann. 1995. see Zillmann and Gan. The increased discrimination that those participants displayed might have been a direct response to that perceived threat. 1999). Future research should address this potentially important mediating variable in the social comparison process. Participants in such contexts have a history of social relations. 1990). 1997). increasingly positive or increasingly negative (cf.606 M. classical. Noel et al. Turner et al. it is possible that subtle differences in the defining characteristics of the groups (e. Hunter et al. given the correlational nature of the design it cannot be assumed that increased discrimination elevated the participants’ social identity. One final point concerns the participants’ responses to the music items. Of the six styles of music included in the study. The regression analysis revealed a positive relationship between ingroup favouritism and group identification. and this in turn might have been perceived as a threat to social identity. 1994.. group size) could have mediated the relationship between identification and motivation to protect the ingroup through discrimination (cf. It is possible that participants in the current study might have been particularly motivated to distance their own group from these three styles in order to avoid the negative connotations associated with them.. As has been shown previously. 1979). Zillmann and Bhatia. 1989. 1994).. The study further reiterates the importance of studying behaviour in meaningful social contexts.. Tentative support to suggest that the current participants’ behaviour represented such an identity-protecting mechanism comes from the significant main and interaction effects of order of group comparisons that were obtained. Future research should address the causal relationship between discrimination and identity in adolescent samples using more experimental procedures (cf. highly identified group members often display increased discrimination following a threat to identity as a means of restoring that identity (Branscombe and Wann. we have addressed social identity processes from the . this research could also be used to address how the salience of the comparative context can mediate these processes.. Given our finding that the participants’ behaviour varied according to the order in which they evaluated the ingroup and the outgroup. Future research would also benefit from addressing the characteristics of adolescents’ ingroups and outgroups in more detail than was attempted here. This finding is interesting and reiterates the central importance that many adolescents assign to issues of musical taste (Fitzgerald et al. preferred leisure activities. Similarly. Whilst the participants’ high levels of group identification indicate that the social categorization was real and meaningful to them. notably three of these appeared in the bottom 25 per cent of the desirability distribution (country and western. see Table 2). Some limitations of the study should be mentioned here. 1995. and jazz music. They also form a valuable basis upon which to make social judgements (Frith. 1996).. 1983. Previous research has shown that adolescents hold firm stereotypes of different musical styles. Palmonari et al. and these stereotypes seem to be particularly derogatory in the case of negatively valued music (North and Hargreaves. 1995). The results showed that those participants who evaluated the outgroup before the ingroup made less favourable ratings of the groups and engaged in more ingroup favouritism than those who evaluated the ingroup first (see similar findings by Reynolds et al. Verkuyten. 2000).

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