Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 9, Iss. 2, April, 2005, pp. 155-173
@2005 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


Everybody Else Is: Networks, Power Laws and Peer Contagion in the Aggressive Recess Behavior of Elementary School Boys

Keith Warren, The Ohio State University College of Social Work
Gheorghe Craciun, The Ohio State University Mathematical Biosciences Institute
Dawn Anderson-Butcher, The Ohio State University College of Social Work

Abstract: This paper develops a simple random network model of peer contagion in aggressive behavior among inner-city elementary school boys during recess periods. The model predicts a distribution of aggressive behaviors per recess period with a power law tail beginning at two aggressive behaviors and having a slope of approximately 1.5. Comparison of these values with values derived from observations of aggressive behaviors during recess at an inner-city elementary school provides empirical support for the model. These results suggest that fluctuations in aggressive behaviors during recess arise from the interactions between students, rather than from variations in the behavior of individual students. The results therefore support those interventions that aim to change the pattern of interaction between students.

Keywords: school, aggression, power law, intervention