Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Robert F. Boruch


With an increasing focus on noncognitive factors in education, understanding their measurement of growth is more important than ever. Yet, little research systematically examines noncognitive factors during adolescence. Adolescence is a highly transitional time when friendships become critical to the development of noncognitive factors and academic performance. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, this dissertation consists of three essays that focus on the interplay between noncognitive factors, friendship networks and high school outcomes. Chapter 1 studies the dimensionality and measurement of change in noncognitive factors during adolescence through examination of eleven survey questionnaires. Exploratory Factor Analysis and Confirmatory Factor Analysis are used to analyze the dimensionality of the survey items which tap into managerial skills, sense of belonging and self-esteem. Longitudinal scalar invariance was achieved for sense of belonging factor. We use common-factor model combined with the second-order factor model with factor loadings obtained from the scalar invariance model to examine growth in sense of belonging and find evidence of its growth during adolescence. However, significant variances in the intercept and slope of the second-order factor models suggest variations between students, inviting further research. Chapter 2 investigates the relationship between family income, friendship network centrality and sense of belonging in school. This study explores friendship network centrality as a possible mediator between family income and differential school belongingness reported by adolescents from different family income backgrounds. Results from mediation analysis suggests that friendship network centrality mediated the positive effect of family income on sense of belonging in school. This result remained consistent when we replicated the analysis using multilevel structural equations modeling framework. Chapter 3 examines the relationship between friendship network closure during ninth grade year and two subsequent high school academic outcomes: on-time high school graduation and course failures. The study uses propensity score matching and Cox proportional hazards model. We find limited evidence of causal relationship between ninth grade friendship network closure and high school academic outcomes but find its association to other ninth grade predictors of high school success, such as GPA and getting along with teachers.

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