Date of Award

2002

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Lynne Cohen

Abstract

The transition from primary to secondary school has a considerable impact upon the social and academic lives of adolescents. An adolescent's sense of belonging (SoB) is important for determining school satisfaction and success during this transition. As SoB is partly developed through an individual's peer social network, this study explored the peer social networks for adolescents who have a SoB. Using the Psychological Sense of School Membership (PSSM) scale (Goodenow, 1993a), five females and three males with a high SoB completed sociological maps and participated in interviews in order to determine the structure and function of their peer social networks. The results indicate that peer social networks contribute to SoB primarily through their structure and the psychological functions they serve. Key results include the finding that those networks which have a degree of stability, and those in which the adolescent is able to identify a close friend whom they trust, are most valuable for promoting SoB. The value of having friends with whom the adolescent feels a sense of history was reported to be particularly important by the adolescents in this study. Furthermore, the results indicate that there is no single structure of peer social networks that is most valuable in promoting SoB, as it is the psychological function of the network itself which fosters a SoB. Several areas for future research are identified, including a comparison between those students who report lower SoB at school and those who report high SoB, and a longitudinal study analysing trends in peer social networks across the school year after the transition to secondary school.

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