College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-11-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Yan Li, PhD

Second Advisor

Kathryn Grant, PhD

Third Advisor

Bernadette Sanchez, PhD


Surrounded by peers who pay increasing attention to social status, adolescents may experience growing concerns about their standing among peers such as feeling that their status being threatened by others or being not as high as they want. These types of social status related concerns are referred to as social status insecurity (SSI; Li, Wang, Wang, & Shi, 2010). Although SSI is a relatively new research topic, a few pioneering studies have found the presence of this issue among adolescents in different cultures and have identified some negative impacts of SSI on adolescents’ behavioral development, such as increased use of relational aggression (Li et al., 2010; Li & Wright, 2014). Despite this information, SSI has not been fully illuminated in the literature. Given the developmental significance of SSI, it is imperative to further examine this phenomenon, including its specified manifestation among adolescents, its origins, and its effects on adolescents’ well-being. The proposed study aimed to fill these research gaps by validating the representations of SSI through a mixed-method approach, examining the influences of SSI on various developmental outcomes, and probing the antecedent factors of SSI from the parent-child and peer experiences. To this end, in Study One, 134 middle school students were recruited to participate in study one of this research. They reported their SSI, coping strategies, current social status, social behaviors and experiences, attachment to parents and peers, mental and physical health, interpersonal relationships, and academic performance via a series of questionnaires. Findings from this this study elucidated the dimensionalities of SSI, the associations between peer and parental factors and SSI, and the associations between SSI and an assortment of mental, physical, andsocial consequences. In addition, in Study Two, 27 randomly selected students from another middle schools were invited to take part in the focus group interviews to discuss how SSI is manifested in adolescents. The findings of the qualitative portion cross-validated the quantitative results and provided narrative details of this social status related cognitive phenomenon. Taken together, the results of two studies of this project enrich our knowledge and help to build a theoretical framework of SSI. With the comprehensive information on the manifestation of SSI as well as on its antecedent factors and developmental implications, new outlooks could be generated for school psychologists, educators, and parents to address adolescents’ SSI and its related developmental difficulties.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons