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Peers Influence Response to Threat: Cultural Norms, Reciprocity & Identity Processes in the Adolescent Caregiving System

NCJ Number
Date Published
25 pages

Since educators have identified a need for increased understanding of cultural variation and practices that support peer efforts to intervene positively in threat situations, this report presents the findings and methodologies of a study that sought to provide information on this issue that can assist educators in guiding and accelerating such positive student development that will increase school safety and the well-being of students.


The study interviewed and surveyed a diverse sample of middle and high school students. The study had the following five objectives: 1) determine what types of interventions they consider effective in helping friends being threatened by another student; 2) assess how victimized youth judge and respond to the actions of peers on their behalf; 3) assess how youth judge themselves after intervening with a victimized peer; 4) refine and validate a measure of socio-cultural norms relevant to revenge and reconciliation; and 5) pilot culturally competent practices for supporting positive youth care-giving efforts. The project administered surveys and conducted in-depth interviews with African American, European American, Mexican American, and Native American youth. The study oversampled with 300 youth to preserve study power. Methods and results are reported for each study objective. The five objectives provided insight into the people that adolescents want to be, i.e., capable caregivers for friends and family members. In responding when peers were targets of aggression, adolescents were most proud and felt the most like good friends when they calmed victims, helped them stay out of trouble by discouraging fighting, and assisted them in resolving social problems peacefully. These actions were associated with greater emotional well-being. 25 references

Date Published: January 1, 2020