Changing Climates of Conflict: A Social Network Experiment in 56 Schools, New Jersey, 2012-2013 (ICPSR 37070)

Version Date: Sep 14, 2020 View help for published

Principal Investigator(s): View help for Principal Investigator(s)
Elizabeth Levy Paluck, Princeton University; Hana R. Shepherd, Rutgers University; Peter Aronow, Yale University

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  • V2 [2020-09-14]
  • V1 [2019-08-28] unpublished
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The data in this collection are social network data drawn from a large-scale field experiment. Theories of human behavior suggest that individuals attend to the behavior of certain people in their community to understand what is socially normative and adjust their own behavior in response. This experiment tested these theories by randomizing an anti-conflict intervention across 56 New Jersey public middle schools, with 24,191 students. After having comprehensively measured every school's social network, randomly selected seed groups of 20-32 students from randomly selected schools were assigned to an intervention that encouraged public stances against conflict at school. The data allowed for comparisons between treatment and control groups, and also provided variables to analyze social networks to examine the impact of social referents.

Surveys were conducted at the start and end of the 2012-2013 school year, the year in which the experiment was conducted. The survey data contains social network variables based on the peers with whom the respondent chooses to spend time. Survey data also include respondents' perceived descriptive and prescriptive norms of conflict at the schools surveyed, as well as administrative data on the schools and demographics of respondents.

The collection includes one dataset, with 482 variables for 24,471 cases. Demographic variables in the collection include gender, grade, age, height, weight, race/ethnicity, language, household characteristics, and demographic variables obtained from school administrative records.

Paluck, Elizabeth Levy, Shepherd, Hana R., and Aronow, Peter. Changing Climates of Conflict: A Social Network Experiment in 56 Schools, New Jersey, 2012-2013. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2020-09-14.

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Spencer Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, William T. Grant Foundation, Princeton University, Canadian Institute For Advanced Research
Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

2012 -- 2013
2012-09 -- 2013-06
  1. This data collection is associated with the publication "Changing climates of conflict: A social network experiment in 56 schools" by Elizabeth Levy Paluck, Hana Shepherd, and Peter M. Aronow. For more information, users should visit the publication's website, and consult the investigator(s) if further information is needed.
  2. Please refer to the (.zip) packages (available for MAC and PC operating systems) included in this study's documentation for additional R syntax files, which may be utilized to replicate the principal investigator(s) computations. Users are encouraged to consult the readme file within the replication zip packages for additional secondary analysis considerations. The syntax included in this zip package do not reflect any of the processing completed by ICPSR, and is being distributed as it was received from the principal investigator(s).


The researchers posited that theories of human behavior suggest that individuals attend to the behavior of certain people in their community to understand what is socially normative and adjust their own behavior in response. This large-scale field experiment allowed researchers to compare anti-conflict intervention treatment and control groups, and also provided variables to analyze social networks in order to examine the impact of social referents. The study examined peer influence for changing climates of conflict.

This multi-level experiment allowed researchers to evaluate the spread of seed students' anti-conflict stance to their peers within the treatment schools, measured subjectively by student-reported norms and administratively by school-reported disciplinary events. On a school-wide level, the researchers tested whether the influence from this group, and particularly from the social referent seeds, was strong enough to shift perceived social norms and disciplinary events in treatment schools compared with control schools after one year.

In the 28 of 56 schools randomly assigned to receive the intervention, the researchers selected a group of students (the seed-eligibles) using a deterministic algorithm designed to represent 15% of the school population, blocked by gender and grade and capped at 64 students (grades ranged from 5 to 8). The researchers randomly assigned 50% of that group (the seeds) to be invited to participate in the anti-conflict intervention, which was implemented over the course of the school year. Within each seed group at each school (on average 26 seeds at each school, for a total of 728 seeds across 28 schools), a random proportion were social referent seeds, meaning they were in the top 10% of their school in the number of connections reported by other students (i.e., indegree).

The researchers measured social connections at the school, in which they asked students to report which students they chose to spend time with in the last few weeks. This question was specifically designed to uncover the structure of attention in a social network, and identified social referents as people who were drawing the most attention. A survey was conducted to map the complete social network for all 56 schools before randomization, approximately 3 weeks following the start of school. Each school's entire school body took a survey at the same time on a given day (n = 24,191 students). The social network question, accompanied by a full student roster for the school, asked students to nominate up to 10 students at their school whom they chose to spend time with in the last few weeks, either in school, out of school, or online.

In addition to surveys, the researchers tracked behavior using schools' administrative records on peer conflict-related disciplinary events across the entire year. Administrative data were available for 49 of the 56 schools, and attention was restricted to these schools for analyses of conflict-related events.

In collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Education, the researchers sent an email to all public middle schools in New Jersey inviting them to apply to participate in a cost-free research intervention. Over 110 middle schools responded. One factor leading to this enthusiastic response was a New Jersey anti-bullying law that took effect the year before the intervention, which mandated that schools provide anti-bullying programming. From this sample, 60 schools were selected on the basis of their geographic location and loose similarity to other schools. Prior to randomization, schools agreed to participate in all measurement aspects of the program, with a 50% chance of receiving the anti-conflict program (the treatment).

Schools were assigned to blocks of four, and randomized to receive the treatment or not within these blocks. Blocks were composed to maximize balance on the following variables: the latitude and longitude location of each school, the average school population as measured by the number of students who took the pre-randomization student surveys, the 5th, 6th, and 7th grade population during the year prior to the study (2011), the percentage of students identified as white, black, and hispanic, the percentage of students identified as having limited English proficiency, and the percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch as identified by the New Jersey State Department of Education, and finally the average network clustering coefficient and network density calculated from student network data gathered in the pre-randomization student surveys. Four schools dropped out from the study before the point of randomization, which left the total sample at 24,191 students at 56 New Jersey public middle schools.

Longitudinal: Cohort / Event-based

Middle school students in New Jersey public schools.


Several Likert-type scales were used.



2020-09-14 The study was updated to include 17 variables which were previously withheld from release: ST1W2, ST2W2, ST3W2, ST4W2, ST5W2, ST6WW2, ST7W2, ST8W2, ST9W2, ST10W2, CN1W2, CN2W2, CN3W2, CN4W2, CN5W2, BF1W2, and BF2W2.

2019-08-28 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Created variable labels and/or value labels.
  • Standardized missing values.
  • Created online analysis version with question text.
  • Performed recodes and/or calculated derived variables.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

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