Peer Influence on Academic Performance: A Social Network Analysis of Social-Emotional Intervention Effects

Dawn DeLay, Linlin Zhang, Laura Hanish, Cindy Miller, Richard Fabes, Carol Martin, Karen P. Kochel, Kimberly Updegraff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Longitudinal social network analysis (SNA) was used to examine how a social-emotional learning (SEL) intervention may be associated with peer socialization on academic performance. Fifth graders (N = 631; 48 % girls; 9 to 12 years) were recruited from six elementary schools. Intervention classrooms (14) received a relationship building intervention (RBI) and control classrooms (8) received elementary school as usual. At pre- and post-test, students nominated their friends, and teachers completed assessments of students’ writing and math performance. The results of longitudinal SNA suggested that the RBI was associated with friend selection and peer influence within the classroom peer network. Friendship choices were significantly more diverse (i.e., less evidence of social segregation as a function of ethnicity and academic ability) in intervention compared to control classrooms, and peer influence on improved writing and math performance was observed in RBI but not control classrooms. The current findings provide initial evidence that SEL interventions may change social processes in a classroom peer network and may break down barriers of social segregation and improve academic performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)903-913
Number of pages11
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Academic performance
  • Intervention
  • Peer influence
  • Social networks
  • Social-emotional learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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