Are boys more cliquey than girls?

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Children's friendship groups in secondary school remain consistent over time and are often structured around gender, with boys forming the most tight-knit bands, according to new research published in PLOS ONE. The findings suggests boys might be more 'cliquey' than girls, and that factors such as location and timetable may have an impact on the social networks that children develop.

Social mixing patterns are commonly used in mathematical models of infectious disease which can play a vital role in public health planning, such as determining effective vaccination strategies. Children's mixing patterns are recognised as particularly important, as they represent a key risk group for disease transmission. As is the primary location for many of their interactions, understanding how children socialise there is vital.

Led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in partnership with the University of Cambridge, the study examined the features and structure of children's social networks within different schools. Previous research on social interactions among children has generally focused on just a single day. However, in this study the team surveyed the self-reported contacts of 460 year 7 pupils across four UK secondary schools over a five month period (between January and June 2015).

In total pupils completed 1,254 surveys, reporting contact information such as who they spend the most time with. The schools in the study were selected to be representative of different geographical and socioeconomic settings, for example including rural and urban and single-sex and mixed-sex schools.

Researchers found that while the overall structure of contacts within children's networks was generally consistent within schools, the patterns of interactions varied considerably between each school. In most schools, children formed well-defined groups, whereas in one school, children interacted more widely.

Interestingly there were only small differences reported in individuals' contacts and networks over the five months, suggesting that well connected and weakly connected, i.e. popular or less popular—children remain that way over time.

The characteristics of social networks were found to be mainly dependent on gender and to a lesser extent on other factors, such as school class. In particular, males tended to cluster together more in each mixed-sex school in the survey.

Dr. Adam Kucharski, lead author at LSHTM, said: "Previous studies have typically looked at social interactions over a single day, so there has been limited information available on how much variation there might be in social mixing patterns over time in schools. Showing boys are potentially more cliquey than girls, perhaps going against gender stereotypes, and that popular children remain popular over time, is an interesting social insight but for mathematical modellers this type of information is also extremely valuable.

"Understanding age-specific social mixing patterns is vital for studying outbreaks of infectious diseases like flu and measles which can spread rapidly, particularly among children. It's useful to find that mixing patterns are fairly consistent, as this suggests it will be easier to analyse social interactions among than was previously thought. It also shows the value of working directly with schools to study these questions."

'Citizen Science' was a crucial part of the study, with year 10 pupils from the four schools working with researchers on the logistics and design of the study along with collecting data from participants.

Future work could include extending the data collection period over a year or two, to look at whether the consistency in contact patterns is held over multiple school years. The researchers say it would also be interesting to examine how the physical structure of buildings and timetabling might influence social contacts, especially as one of the schools in this study allocated classes for each subject based on ability, and had less well-defined social networks than the others.

Mathematical models are regularly used to investigate how diseases might spread, and what sort of control measures may be required to stop transmission. For example, models based on social mixing patterns helped health agencies assess vaccination strategies during the 2009 influenza pandemic .

The authors acknowledge there are some limitations of their study, including contacts being recorded using self-reported questionnaires and differences in the timing between rounds of data collection across the schools in the study (often resulting from logistical constraints such as term dates).

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More information: Adam J. Kucharski, Clare Wenham, Polly Brownlee, Lucie Racon, Natasha Widmer, Ken T. D. Eames, Andrew J. K. Conlan. Structure and consistency of self-reported social contact networks in British secondary schools. PLOS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pne.0200090
Journal information: PLoS ONE

Citation: Are boys more cliquey than girls? (2018, July 25) retrieved 15 September 2019 from
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Jul 26, 2018
Cliques are another expression of tribalism. Its genetic. Tribes formed to improve the chances for survival to reproduce. As such, they necessarily include both sexes whether its apparent or not.

Jul 26, 2018
You haven't a ghost of a chance to have me or others to believe your fallacious statement. A clique is a small group with shared interests/ commonality who do not readily allow others into the inner sanctum. It has nothing what so ever to do with survival and is not necessarily bi-gender.

On the other side of your dilapidated fence is your misunderstanding of tribe.

Jul 26, 2018
What, you think I made it up all by myself?

"It's not just religion, of course. We identify ourselves as members of all sorts of tribes; our families, political parties, race, gender, social organizations... Tribalism is pervasive, and it controls a lot of our behavior, readily overriding reason. Think of the inhuman things we do in the name of tribal unity. Wars are essentially, and often quite specifically, tribalism. Genocides are tribalism - wipe out the other group to keep our group safe – taken to madness. Racism that lets us feel that our tribe is better than theirs, parents who end contact with their own children when they dare marry someone of a different faith or color..."

Jul 26, 2018
And it is genetic...

"There can be no doubt that a tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to give aid to each other and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes..." darwin, 1871

-Group selection over 1000s of gens...

""Primeval man", he argued, "regarded actions as good or bad solely as they obviously affected the welfare of the tribe, not of the species". Among the living tribal peoples, he added, "the virtues are practised almost exclusively in relation to the men of the same tribe" and the corresponding vices "are not regarded as crimes" if practised on other tribes (Darwin, 1871)

The tribal dynamic - internal altruism in conjunction with external animosity... internal amity + external emnity... is the thing that made us human.

It explains everything.

Jul 26, 2018
And yes, it includes cliques...

"On a Windy City playground, Little Joey and his buddies Tommy and Eddie are organizing a game of Teen-age Mutant Ninja Turtles. They're going to play Leonardo, Donatello and Raphael respectively. Bruce, a classmate, wants to play the fourth hero, Michaelangelo. They don't like Bruce. They don't want him to play. They have their own thing going: Cliques.

"Everybody's doing it--this late-20th-Century form of tribalism.

"That's proof positive that whether exclusionary group behavior is natural (no one really knows), it certainly is universal."

-and gangs...

"For me, gang is simply another word for tribe. In essence, gangs are good for society. In a healthy state, they are about the formation of groups that operate under ethical and moral codes of conduct upheld and enforced by the elders of the community."

-Of course hes wrong. Gangs are bad because they legitamize victimizing.

Jul 26, 2018
Tribalism is an expression of speciation - the 'urge to diverge'. It is the source of all bigotry. In its most extreme form - nationalism - it enables wars that can involve the entire planet.

Its the reason that people will so easily fall for fundamentalism, fascism, castes, or even communism - all are founded on the innate feeling that your group, ethnicity, religion, social or economic class, has the right to take what they need from the lesser-deserving. The heathens, goyim, infidels, canaanites, bourgeoisie, etc.

And since humanity has existed in a state of chronic overpopulation ever since we learned how to hunt the animals that were hunting us, taking from others in the context of tribal conflict has been the norm.

"gen 1:28 Then God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth"

-with more of us and fewer of everybody else.

Jul 30, 2018
It means that you don't leave your nice house with warm fire after a fine meal to burn down someone else's house because they disagree with your opinion
??? Tribal conflict happens because the other guy is sitting in his village eating a fine meal which he stole from YOU, and your children are starving.

HIS opinion is that his people have the right to take whatever they need from your tribe, because there is not enough for both. And because of the tropical human population growth rate, there is never enough for both.

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