Research Paper Format
Social Science Research Papers using APA format

Revised by Marcia D. Dixson: APA Manual, 6th edition

Department of Communication



Basic Parts of the Research Paper (click on any heading for an explanation and example, headings in bold are headings which should be used in your paper, the rest are for your convenience only):

Title Page




Literature Review

Rationale for the Hypothesis

Hypothesis or research question


    Instruments or Experimental Design and/or Procedure






Other Notes

APA Websites


Explanations and sample excerpts

Title Page:  Should contain the title of the paper and your name. The title page should also have a running head (flush left) and page number (flush right).  This is the ONLY place your name should appear in the manuscript. If this is a class paper, this is all you need on the title page. If you are submitting it, you should also include the author's note which includes any support or presentation of the article along with contact information. The Running head should appear on every page just as it does on page 1.





The Relationship between Peer Influence and
Young Children’s Perceptions of their Family:
Does Communication Matter?

Marcia D. Dixson

Indiana-Purdue University, Fort Wayne

Author Note

Marcia D. Dixson, Department of Communication
, Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne

This research was partially supported by a grant from the Purdue Research Foundation and parts were presented at the 1995 Annual Convention of Speech Communication Association, San Antonio, TX.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Marcia D. Dixson, Department of Communication, Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, IN 46805-1499.


Abstract: a brief description of the study and its results - this is on a page by itself, typically one paragraph and between 150 - 250 words.


       This study investigates the relationships between peer influence and children’s satisfaction with family life and the moderating role played by family communication patterns. Trained assistants interviewed 88 elementary school children about peer influence, family communication patterns, and satisfaction with their family lives. A significant correlation was found between peer influence and family satisfaction.  However, this correlation was moderated by family communication patterns.

Title of paper: Begin page 3 with the paper's title

The relationship between peer influence and young children’s perceptions of their family:
Does communication matter?


Introduction: This introduces the problem and its significance (no heading for this section)

       This study expands on an earlier study (Dixson, 1994) which investigated influences of and on the child’s expectations versus experience of the parent-child relationship.  The study found that the more the relationship met the child’s expectations, the more satisfied the child was with family life. (Demographic characteristics such as age, family income, and family size had no effect on this relationship.)  A significant positive correlation was also found between family satisfaction and the degree of conversation orientation reported.
       The first study only considered factors within the family system.  However, children’s satisfaction with family life are influenced by factors outside the system as well, especially once they reach school age and are exposed to ideas and families from books, teachers, and, possibly most importantly, peers.

Review of the Literature: - part of the introduction that summarizes the extant research and builds an argument for why this particular study needs to be done (and sometimes includes an argument for why a particular method or sample should be used; no heading for this section either)

Peer Influence
       Peer influence, the extent to which children orient their behavior and attitudes towards their peers rather than their family, has been blamed for antisocial behavior (Curtner-Smith & MacKinnon-Lewis, 1994; O’Brien & Bierman, 1988; Vuchinich, et. al, 1992), drug, cigarette, and alcohol use (Aloise-Young, Graham & Hansen, 1994;  Brook, Whiteman, Gordon & Brook, 1990; Iannotti & Bush, 1992; vanRosmalen & McDaniel, 1989; Shilts, 1991; Stacy, Sussman & Burton, 1992; Urberg, 1992) and credited with cognitive learning (Verba, 1994), participation in sports (Brown, Frankel & Fennel, 1989), and social adjustment (East & Rook, 1992).   The effects of family life on peer relationships (Bhavnagri, N.P. & Parke, R.D., 1991; Booth, C.L., Rose-Krasnor, L. & Rubin, K.H., 1991; Patterson, C.J., Vaden, N.A. & Kupersmidt, J.B.,1991; Pettit, G.S., Harrist, A.W., Bates, J.E.  & Dodge, KA., 1991) and the probable reciprocal relationship between peer influence and the family via the child (Ladd, 1991) have also been explored.  What has not been investigated is the nature of the association between peer relationships and family relationships for young children (preadolescents).

       From peers, children begin to learn an entirely new way of relating (Verba, 1994; Youniss, 1980).  Youniss (1980) proposes a Sullivan-Piaget theory of relationship development stating that children experience two "strands" of relationship development: one a unilateral relationship (parent-child) and the other a bilateral or reciprocal relationship (peer-peer).  Meaning (about how the social world works, for instance) may be gained in either type of relationship but it is a different process in each: Meaning gained through unilateral means is based on interpersonal differences.  Meaning is contained outside the child in a person who knows what the child does not know.  The bilateral method of discovering meaning is based on similarities shared by persons and engenders mutual understanding because of joint construction.  (p. 10).

       While many would take exception to the term “unilateral” in describing parent-child relations (Baumrind, 1980; Glass, Bengston & Dunham, 1986; Mills & Grusec, 1988; Parpal & Maccoby, 1985), most parent-child relationships are characterized by more imbalance of power than peer relationships.  Around the age of five, children learn from peers that "a system can be created with other persons.  The system works functionally, is open to modification, and gives a sense of mutual meaning" (Youniss, 1980, p. 19).  During adolescence, children try to merge the two strings of relational development and "begin to transform the terms of unilateral authority relations [with parents] into the terms known from relations of cooperation [with peers]" (p. 33).  However, for such a transformation to be effective it must be "accompanied by changes from adults also" (Youniss, 1980, p. 34).  Youniss posits the inability of some adults to adjust to a more cooperative relationship with their child as a reason for parent-child conflict and the adolescent's heavy reliance on and influence by peers.  The two ways of relating create a tension in the child as he/she tries to introduce an increasingly more cooperative relationship into the parent-child dyad.

[The bulk of the discussion section is omitted]

Rationale for the Hypothesis: this is built throughout the literature review and introduction; the hypotheses can be included as the rationales are built or the rationale can be summarized and emphasized at the end of the lit review before stating the hypotheses

       But, what happens between the age of five and adolescence?  Does peer influence result in this tension earlier than adolescence?   If so, the child’s orientation toward peers is likely to cause decreasing satisfaction with family life:

Hypothesis or research question: formal statement of the hypothesis or research question, in the format H1: X will be positively correlated with Y under Z conditions or H2: X will score significantly higher than Y (where X, Y and Z are variables of interest).

     H1: Peer influence will be significantly, negatively correlated to family satisfaction.

Methods: this section should explain how the study was done.
Participants: who were the people in your study, include demographic data (age, gender, marital status if relevant etc.), number of participants and how participants were recruited


       Participants in this study were recruited as part of a larger study by sending letters to parents of 16 urban after-school programs and one small town elementary school in the Midwest.  All children gathered from after school programs and the elementary school were offered a prize (troll, basketball or football cards or small note pad) for their cooperation with the study.

Data from 88 children were gathered.  Ages of the 47 boys and 41 girls ranged from 6 to 12 (mean 8.81; SD = 1.61).  Family types included  primarily intact (N = 48) and divorced (25) with the rest from widowed (9), single (3) or separated (3) families.   Income levels of parents ranged from under $5,000 to over $50,000 with a mean around $40,000.  Family structure for most of these children consisted of living with one (42) or two (23) siblings at home.  Nine were only children and 13 had three or four brothers or sisters at home.  The child's position in the family tended to be the oldest (50) or second oldest (25).
Instruments or Experimental Design and/or Procedures: explain any instruments (surveys, questionnaires, etc.) you used giving reliability data if available and sample questions, how instruments were administered (read to, handed to, mailed to participants).  Explain, if applicable, the experimental design (what were the conditions, how were variables controlled)

        Trained interviewers gathered data by asking children questions from the following surveys and using interactive response mechanisms which allowed the children to physically move a figure on a enlarged scale. Interviews lasted 20-40 minutes.

Family satisfaction. Family satisfaction was measured by using an adaptation of a Marital Opinion Questionnaire (Huston, McHale & Crouter, 1986).  This modified scale asks how the children feel their relationship with their families has been over the last two months.  This survey uses seven-point semantic differentials to measure eight specific items:  miserable/enjoyable; hopeful/discouraging; empty/full; interesting/boring; rewarding/disappointing; doesn't give me much chance/brings out the best in me; lonely/friendly; worthwhile/useless.  It also includes one global satisfaction item of completely satisfied/completely dissatisfied.  This scale has been used with marital couples and achieved alphas ranging from .88 to .94 with correlations between the individual item totals and the global ratings from .63 to .80 (Huston, McHale & Crouter, 1986).  For this sample the eight items yielded an alpha of .80

Results (for each hypothesis): list each hypothesis or research question and then tell what statistical tests (if any) were done and what the results were (this section is numbers in quantitative studies).  Give the results of the F test, ANOVA, Pearson's correlation etc., along with relevant information about significance levels, means etc.


       A Pearson’s correlation (r = -.31, p < .004) between peer influence and family satisfaction supported the hypothesis of peer influence being  significantly, negatively related to family satisfaction.

Discussion: In the previous section you simply reported your findings.  Now, you need to discuss what they mean.  Interpret the results in light of the general problem and/or theoretical perspective you are working from.  What do your findings mean?


       The results of this study indicate a negative association between peer influence and satisfaction with family life.  The correlational nature of the data does not allow for cause-effect conclusions to be drawn.  The moderate correlation (accounting for about nine percent of the variance in satisfaction) reminds us there are other factors to consider. The probable supposition is that there is reciprocal influence between children’s satisfaction with family life and peer influence.
       A child not terribly satisfied with his/her family life may turn to peers for companionship, guidance and/or support; consistent with Jones’ (1992) findings that family divorce and conflict were related to a larger friendship network and greater friendship satisfaction and Weiss (1986) findings that friendships may serve a compensatory function when quality family relationships are lacking.   On the other hand, a child who is uncomfortable around peers may look more favorably at family life.  It is also possible that successfully negotiating egalitarian relationships with peers may lead to dissatisfaction with the hierarchical nature of the parent-child relationship and family life in general.  Likewise, if the child has only experienced relationships in which s/he has little power, the peer relationship may seem overly difficult.

       [The bulk of the discussion section is omitted]

       When communication and family life are unsatisfactory young children may be more likely to look to friends (Weiss, 1986) for guidance and, thus, the negative relationship between peer influence and family satisfaction is strengthened.  Providing sufficient boundaries but also allowing for discussion of new, even conflicting, ideas provides children with a safe place to grow and test out relational behaviors.  Thus, the influence of peers does not have to have negative effects on family life from the child’s perspective.

Limitations: Discuss limitations of the study, i.e., sample size, sample generalizability, instrument weaknesses etc.


Limitations to this study are standard: not enough participants, small geographical and demographical area covered.  The study’s strength is that it gathered information from the perspective of the young child so that we can begin to understand how the child views his/her relationships, the connections between those relationships, and the communication within them.

Implications:  Given what you have found, what research should be done next and why.


       The findings indicate the importance of the child’s perspective.  What other effects besides moderating peer influence and affecting family satisfaction might be attributed to conversation or conformity orientation?  For instance, are children’s intellectual abilities stimulated by moderate levels of conversation orientation (since this communication pattern encourages thinking, and presenting arguments)?  What affects do the parent’s perspective on family communication patterns have on children’s satisfaction?  Is it important that parent’s and children’s perspectives be congruent?  What, if anything, happens when they are not?
       In general, the field of family communication is young, the area of research into parent-child communication, especially from the perspective of the young child, is newborn.  However, since these early years lay the foundations for a child’s self-esteem and self-concept and establish communication patterns which may be difficult to change later, it is extremely important that we see research of this age group develop and grow.

Conclusion: General conclusion to wrap up your paper and reemphasize your findings and the importance of this kind of research

       Although the results were not all as expected, some interesting findings did come of this study, in particular the moderating effect of conformity communication patterns on the relationship between peer influence and children’s satisfaction with family life.  Realizing that the communication patterns within a family create a social reality that can affect how external variables effect the family system reinforces the importance of looking at family communication.

References: APA (6th edition) style


Aloise-Young, P. A., Graham, J. W. & Hansen, W. B. (1994).  Peer influence on smoking

initiation during early adolescence: A comparison of group members and group

outsiders. Journal of Applied Psychology, 70, 281-287.

Bhavnagir, N. P. & Parke, R. D. (1991).  Parents as direct facilitators of children’s peer

relationships: Effects of age of child and sex of parent. Journal of Social and

Personal Relationships, 8, 423-440.

Mills, R. S. L., & Grusec, J. E. (1988). Socialization from the perspective of the parent-child

relationship. In S. W. Duck (Ed.), Handbook of personal relationships (pp. 177-

192). London: John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Vangelisti, A. L., & Daly, J. A. (1992). Expectations in close relationships. Manuscript

submitted for publication.

Youniss, J. (1980). Parents and peers in social development. Chicago: University of

Chicago Press.

[The above are examples of citing a journal article, a journal article, a chapter in an edited cook, an unpublished manuscript, and a book and do not represent all of the references for this manuscript. If you retreive an article from an online journal, include the d.o.i. (digital objective identifier) if one is present. Do not include retrieval dates or databases.]

General Notes:
  1. All pages should be numbered in the upper right hand corner with running head.
  2. Headings and subheadings should follow directions in APA Manual. 6th edition - p. 62.
  3. Don't be afraid to subdivide the literature review with headings.
  4. Prepare a Reference page according to the guidelines in the APA Manual, 6th edition.
  5. Generally, use 12 point font (Times New Roman preferred), 1 inch margins, double space.


APA Websites

Purdue Writing Center on Using APA

University of Southern Missouri Guide to Reference Page

APA Information on using digial object identifiers (doi)

APA Guide from Vanguard University in Southern California

Error correction in the APA manual



Questions about preparing manuscripts?  Email me:

Email Dr. Dixson