Call for Research Participation-Adolescent Crowd Study

Anyone who has worked in (or attended) a secondary school has seen evidence of adolescent crowds. Maybe in your school, the jock crowd hung out in the front hall and the rebel crowd – the druggies, toughs, or trouble-makers – hung out behind the gym. The band kids were usually down by the bandroom and the academic crowd was kind of invisible. These adolescent crowds go by different names and have different status in different schools, but almost any study of secondary schools finds at least five crowd types: Popular, Athletic, Deviant, Academic, and Other (Sussman, Pokhrel, Ashmore, & Brown, 2009). Membership in these crowds is not always clear, and new research suggests that students often consider themselves members of multiple crowds (Cross, 2012; Cross & Fletcher, 2011). Crowds channel adolescent activities (Brown, Mory, & Kinney, 1994) and help to shape their identity (Eckert, 1989). In studying the social and emotional lives of gifted students, it is important that we learn more about their relationship with these crowds. A student’s willingness to be identified as a member of the Academic crowd may be important to her or his fulfillment of academic potential.

In a study designed to learn what factors are associated with a willingness or unwillingness to be identified as a member of the “Smart” crowd, we hope to learn more about the relationship between individual characteristics, students’ perceptions of the school and social setting, and crowd membership. This study will allow us to draw a picture of the student body through their attitudes. It includes instruments designed to assess student perceptions of the school climate (trust in teachers and administration, academic “press” or rigor in the school, identification with the school), student self-concept, attitudes toward intergroup relations, a bullying/victimization instrument, and crowd membership. In addition to fulfilling our research needs, the school will benefit from participation, as well. We will provide a report to the school, along with a presentation of our findings about students’ perceptions, about school climate and social structure that will be useful to administrators, teachers and counselors.

In the first phase of the study, researchers will conduct a lecture to a required class at each grade level, during which we will learn about the names of the crowds in the school.  The crowd names will be put into the survey, which can then be administered to the students either online or by pencil and paper, depending on the school’s facilities. This novel approach to studying the social structure of the school along with individual beliefs has the potential to greatly expand what is known not only about gifted students, but about the adolescent social experience in general.

It can be challenging to find the time to do research in a busy academic environment, but generations of future students and educators can gain from the knowledge that is derived from one survey. We hope you will consider participating in this study for the benefit of future students. All research plans will be submitted to The College of William & Mary’s Institutional Review Board and the participating school district’s research approval process. Please contact Jennifer Riedl Cross, CFGE Director of Research,, for more information.


Brown, B. B., Mory, M. S., & Kinney, D. (1994). Casting adolescent crowds in a relational perspective: Caricature, channel and context. In R. Montemayor, G. R. Adams, T. P. Gulotta (Eds.) Personal  relationships during adolescence (pp. 123-167). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Cross, J. R. (2012). Crowds. In R. J. R. Levesque (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Adolescence. New York, NY: Springer.

Cross, J. R., & Fletcher, K. L. (2010). Associations of parental and peer characteristics with adolescents’ social dominance orientation. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. doi: 10.1007/s10964-010-9585-7

Eckert, P. (1989). Jocks & Burnouts: Social categories and identity in the high school. New York, NY: Teachers College.

Sussman, S., Pokhrel, P., Ashmore, R. D., & Brown, B. B. (2007). Adolescent peer group identification and characteristics: A review of the literature. Addictive Behaviors, 32, 1602-1627.