Status relations in school and their relevance for health in a life course perspective: findings from the Aberdeen children of the 1950's cohort study

Soc Sci Med. 2008 Feb;66(4):835-48. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.10.018. Epub 2007 Dec 26.


In the class room a hierarchical structure of social relations typically develops in which the child's position is a marker of the view of the others, i.e. the extent to which he or she is an accepted and valued member of the group. The status distribution in the school class is likely to correspond to differences in personal characteristics, including behaviours and competencies, and to generate a differential distribution of perceived expectations, treatment, resources and emotions. We argue that these phenomena constitute parts in a developmental process which, through mediators such as self-view and subsequent life choices, may affect adult health. The purpose of this paper is to study whether and how peer status is associated with self-reported health in mid-life. Data was derived from a cohort study of individuals born in Aberdeen, Scotland, between 1950 and 1956. We use information about childhood circumstances, including peer status nominations, collected in the early 1960s, and information about adult circumstances derived from a postal questionnaire carried out among more than 6,000 individuals in 2001-2003. Multivariate analyses yielded a graded association between peer status and adult health problems in the form of limiting longstanding illness and less than good self-rated health. These associations could not be explained by socioeconomic circumstances or differences in individual behaviour and cognitive score in childhood. It was rather subsequent socioeconomic career that seemed to explain the association found among men. For women, a significant association remained, suggesting alternative pathways or mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Illegitimacy / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peer Group
  • Schools*
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Social Class
  • Social Perception*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors