The positive influence of classmates’ behaviour

Prior research has indicated that an individual adolescent’s behaviour is influenced by the behaviour of his or her classmates. But while most studies have focused on negative peer influence, a study published in Journal of Adolescence investigates whether individual anti-social behaviours in adolescents can potentially be reduced by promoting pro-social behaviour at the classroom level.

In order to determine whether classmates’ pro-social behaviour is related to lower anti-social behaviour of pupils, Verena Hofmann and Christoph Michael Müller conducted a longitudinal study among lower secondary school pupils in Switzerland (mean age = 13.8 years). The sample included 55 classrooms in eight schools, and the researchers analysed data collected at the end of Grade 7, Grade 8, and Grade 9 (Years 7–10). Participants completed self-reported assessments on pro-social behaviour, anti-social behaviour, and anti-social attitudes. Classmates’ pro- and anti-social behaviour for each pupil was calculated by averaging all pupils’ scores in a class, excluding the pupils’ own score.

While children generally developed more anti-social behaviour over time, particularly those who had higher initial levels of anti-social behaviour, results indicated that more pro-social behaviour among classmates predicted lower levels of individual anti-social behaviour and anti-social attitudes in the future.

Source: Avoiding antisocial behavior among adolescents: The positive influence of classmates’ prosocial behavior (October 2018), Journal of Adolescence, volume 68