image of Peer Social Network students and faculty

Everyone can recall some positive and negative interactions with peers while growing up. In the Peer Social Networks Lab, directed by Dr. Hongling Xie, we use both quantitative and qualitative methods to study adolescents' peer relationships, including bullying, victimization, popularity, friendships, and social media engagement. For instance, we examined how an adolescent's position in the peer hierarchy (e.g., popularity, likability) may enable them to use different forms of aggression and how peer relationships such as prosocial support may help a victim adjust. A recent project considered the role of rumor spreading (a specific form of social aggression) in middle schools. Our team collected and coded the narrative reports of rumors spread in middle schools, and identified the content, the social impact, and consequences of rumors; finding that rumors are often about popular students' social relationships or behaviors.  Currently, the Peer Social Networks Lab is focusing on cross-race peer relationships and adolescents' social media engagement including cybervictimization. Such research bears direct relevance to the current challenges facing many adolescents in their schools and communities. 

The projects provide many opportunities for undergraduate students to gain research experience and receive training as research scholars. Lab members have presented at a variety of local and international conferences. Research topics conducted by recent LAURA scholars (Liberal Arts Undergraduate Research Award) in the lab include "Within- and cross-ethnic liking and disliking among adolescents" (Jay'ana King, '21), "The differential effects of cross-ethnic friendships" (Sophia Placourakis, '20); and "The effects of cybervictimization versus face-to-face victimization on adolescent internalizing problems" (Emily Yam, '21).  Many of the LAURA scholars from the lab have gone on to doctoral or master's programs in Counseling Psychology, Developmental Psychology, School Psychology, or Social Work.

Anna Stewart, a senior from the Honors College, joined the Peer Social Networks Lab as an undergraduate RA in the fall of 2020. She was trained to code social media use data collected from the lab's ongoing project, Social Media Use and Behaviors in Emerging Adults (SMUBEA). With guidance from Dr. Xie and support from the lab's graduate students, Anna won a Fall 2021 LAURA award for her independent research project, titled "Body Image and Risky Sexual Behaviors among College Students: The Moderating Role of Dating App Use." Additionally, Anna will be traveling to New Orleans in March to present her findings at the Society for Research on Adolescence's Biennial conference! Anna's experience in the Peer Social Networks Lab helped her secure a position in the University of Michigan's Summer Program in Cognition and Early Development. She was able to gain additional research experience by serving as a research assistant in Dr. Felix Warneken's Social Minds lab at the University of Michigan during the summer of 2021.

With the changing social circumstances in society, future research in the lab will focus on minority youth's experience of victimization and discrimination in school and community context. We hope the research from our lab will facilitate the development of healthy and supportive social relationships among adolescents and young adults in various social contexts.