Thursday 20 June 2019

Young boys more 'cliquey' than girls, new research finds

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

Boys are more likely to form cliques in school than girls, a new study has revealed.

Although high-school movies suggest the 'Mean Girls' style cliques are compiled of girls, new research has found that boys may be more likely to form 'tight-knit' bonds during their school years.

The study also found that a child's popularity status typically remains the same throughout their time in school.

Experts say that examining social mixing patterns is an important part of health planning, such as determining vaccination strategies.

The research was carried out by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in partnership with the University of Cambridge.

Lead author at LSHTM Dr Adam Kucharski said the findings could go against "gender stereotypes" but described the information as "valuable".

"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," he said.

"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."

Dr Kucharski added that looking at the different age groups is "vital" for looking at diseases that spread rapidly among children, like the flu.

"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," he said.

"It’s useful to find that mixing patterns are fairly consistent, as this suggests it will be easier to analyse social interactions among children than was previously thought. It also shows the value of working directly with schools to study these questions."

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