How an inner-city childhood affects adult success

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the US have published results of a study that show “A family’s resources and the doors they open cast a long shadow over children’s life trajectories.” As part of the study, the researchers followed nearly 800 Baltimore school children for a quarter of a century – from 1982, the year they entered first grade (age 6-7), until they turned 28 or 29 years old – focusing in particular on those who started in the most disadvantaged settings. Data included interviews with families, teachers, and other community members as the children made their way through elementary, middle, and high school; joined the work force; and started families.

Key findings of the study included:

  • Almost none of the children from low-income families made it through college.
  • Among those who did not attend college, white men from low-income backgrounds found the best-paying jobs.
  • White women from low-income backgrounds benefit financially from marriage and stable live-in partnerships.
  • The most likely to abuse drugs were better-off white men.

Read more about the findings on the Johns Hopkins news website.

Source: The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood (2014), American Sociological Association.

The complex nature of bullying

A new study has looked at the pattern of bullying in US high schools.

The researchers used data from the Context of Adolescent Substance Use study, a longitudinal survey that began in 2002 of adolescents at 19 schools. The researchers determined students’ popularity based on their position in the school’s network of friendships. Victimisation was measured using interviews with students.

Only the top 5% of students were not subject to bullying. But the slopes to this peak are steep. The study found that, as students move from the middle of the friendship network towards the top, victimisation increases by 25%. Victims experience psychological distress and social marginalisation, and these adverse effects are magnified by status. For most students, gains in status increase the likelihood of victimisation and the severity of its consequences.

The study shows how widespread bullying activity is within high schools, suggesting that universal programmes to address this activity are likely to be more successful. It also supports calls for more intervention by peer bystanders – if aggression is intended to push one up the social ladder, audience disapproval should be effective in discouraging such behaviour.

You can read more about the research in this press release from the American Sociological Association.

Source: Casualties of Social Combat: School Networks of Peer Victimization and Their Consequences (2014), American Sociological Review, 79(2).