Cliques

A clique is a group of people who identify with each other and interact frequently.

The term clique has two levels of significance. The neutral meaning, used by social researchers, denotes a group of people who interact with each other more intensively than with other peers in the same setting. In its more popular form, the word clique has negative connotations. A clique is the word used to describe an adolescent social group that excludes others on the basis of superficial differences, exercising a greater than average amount of peer pressure upon members. The numerous terms teenagers use to describe themselves and others—such as jocks, druggies, populars, brains, nerds, normals, rappers, preps, stoners, rockers, punks (punx), freaks (phreaks), and skaters— exemplify both levels of meaning in the word clique. These terms accurately refer to the activities or qualities the group members share as well as to the exclusivity of the groups.

A clique consists of a particular group of people within a particular location. Cliques are characterized by a pattern of relationships in which each member is either directly or indirectly connected with every other member. Joining cliques, having the desire to join a particular clique, and being excluded from cliques are considered a normal part of adolescent development. Joining cliques helps children to develop, identify, and regulate social interaction. Generally, children begin to be more aware of interpersonal differences and form cliques in late elementary school, between the ages of 8 and 10 years old. As they begin to separate emotionally from their parents, young adolescents’ identification with their peers is intensified. Between the ages of 10 and 12, a child's clique may change on a daily basis.

The issue of belonging is extremely important during middle school and high school, and membership in cliques has a strong effect on adolescents’ sense of self-worth. During high school, cliques become more consistent, though their composition may still change. Research shows that the way teens behave is better predicted by the behavior of their clique than by the behavior of individual friends.

Resources

BOOKS

Brooks, David. The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement. New York: Random House, 2011.

Cotterell, John. Social Networks in Youth and Adolescence. London: Routledge, 2007.

Peck, Lee A. Coping with Cliques. New York: Rosen, 1992.

Scott, John. Social Network Analysis. London: SAGE, 2013.

WEBSITES

Andrews, Edmund L. “Stanford researcher explores why

cliques thrive in some high schools more than others.” Stanford University. http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/november/cliques-high-school-110514.html (accessed September 16, 2015).

Smith, Jacquelyn. “How to Deal with Cliques at Work.” Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/07/25/how-to-deal-with-cliques-at-work/ (accessed September 16, 2015).