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Friends in high places: A dyadic perspective on peer status as predictor of friendship quality and the mediating role of empathy and prosocial behavior

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Social Development

Published online on


Friendships and peer status play important roles in the social landscape of adolescents and are related to developmental outcomes. Yet, how peer status is related to friendship quality and what role social skills play in this association remains unclear. In this study, we use Actor–Partner Interdependence (Mediation) Modeling (Ledermann, Macho, & Kenny, 2011) to investigate how two forms of peer status, preference and popularity, are related to positive and negative friendship quality in mid‐adolescence. Results show that adolescents who are friends with more preferred (i.e., likeable) and popular adolescents report higher friendship quality. These partner effects were partially mediated by adolescents’ own prosocial behavior and their friends’ empathy levels. Higher levels of empathy of one's friend and one's own lesser preference for equity explained why adolescents were more satisfied in a friendship with highly preferred (i.e., likeable) adolescents. Interestingly, empathy was not a mediator for the link between friendship quality and popularity. These findings promote a better understanding of the interplay between different levels of social complexity (i.e., individual, dyadic and peer group level) in adolescence.