Conflict as a Social Status Mobility Mechanism in Schools: A Network Approach

Laura M. Callejas, Rutgers University - New Brunswick
Hana Shepherd, Princeton University
Publication Date:
Jan 2020

Participating in conflict may facilitate the acquisition of social status in a group. This article's authors build on theories about the sources of conflict and status to formulate propositions about how conflict affects status mobility in schools. Using two-wave panel data from over 20,000 students in 56 middle schools, they first examine the relationship between change in conflict with schoolmates and change in a network-derived metric of status, betweenness centrality, which is an indicator of being well known. More overall conflict with students is associated with increases in status up to a threshold. Additionally, students who perceive more conflict with others who do not perceive conflict in return also gain status. Finally, more conflict with friends does not increase status. Based on this evidence, the authors propose a mechanism by which conflict increases status through signaling integration in the school’s social scene rather than through establishing dominance over others, as previous literature suggests.



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