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A clique (pronounced AmE /klɪk/, BrE /kliːk/) is an informal and restricted social group formed by people who share common interests (formal social groups are referred to as societies or organizations). They are often subsets of larger social groups. Cliques are often associated with groups of teenagers, but can be found in most social groups. Teenage cliques have been relevantly addressed both in literature and cinema. Movies like Mean Girls and Odd Girl Out explore the subject, and are based on literary works by psychologists.

Cliques also exist politically, in the form of ruling cliques. A complex series of military alliances between warlords in a civil war can form cliques, such as the Zhili clique in the history of the Republic of China.

Cliques often have complex structures. Nearly all cliques have a defined power structure, generally headed by one or more leaders.


Social roles within cliques vary, they usually contain between 2 and 12 members (with and average of 5-6), but two roles stereotypically associated with teenage female cliques are notably applicable to most cliques - that of the "queen bee" and that of the "outcast".

Queen bee[]

The queen bee is the clique's leader. Characteristics often associated to her are a pleasant appearance, charisma, skill in manipulation and monetary power. The queen bee has substantial influence and power over the clique, and is usually envied and looked upon as a role model by clique members and at times by outsiders to the clique. Her actions are closely followed and imitated, even though they may not be of a positive nature.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

With this, the social role of the "outcast" is defined, as individuals that the queen bee dislikes may be classified by her as such, thus encouraging clique members to victimize the outcast, in order to continue to be part of the clique or to receive praise from the queen bee.

In most cliques there is, at least to some degree, a power struggle for the position of the queen bee. Hence, the clique's leader might change from time to time, for example due to a member (or non-member) exceeding the queen bee's abilities, or members getting fed up with the Queen Bee's antics and thus attracting followers of the old clique leader. Outside influences may also act upon the social structure of the clique, such as changing interests or increasing maturity among clique members.


The outcast is a person who does not fit into any specific clique, and as such, at times faces physical and psychological aggression from clique members, in a fashion similar to bullying. It is not common for witnesses to defend an outcast, as most fear being rejected and potentially becoming an outcast themselves.

Ultimately, most of the damage an outcast receives is psychological. Feelings of isolation and enmity may result into the outcast developing clinical depression, psychological trauma, eating disorders, and, in some cases, suicidal thoughts.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Outcasts may have difficulty seeking help from an adult or relative, as a collective impression that such an act is humiliating is present within adolescent social groups in general. It is plausible to assume that clique members themselves create this impression, in order to avoid being confronted by adults. Sometimes the situations can get so bad that the outcast might feel tempted to leave the larger social group. In some situations where adolesents are concerned, concerned parents may consider homeschooling or transferring their victimized child to another school. In some cases parents have even filed lawsuits and/or restraining orders against the school and/or against the queen-bee and/or her parents.

Effects of clique membership[]

It may be enjoyable to be part of a clique, as members are regularly involved in social and recreational activities. Clique members may also forge closer and more lasting friendships, as they socialise with each other more often and generally have common interests. Being part of a clique creates a sense of belonging, and benefits the social skills of a person. Clique members are often influenced through peer pressure. Cliques may also be a source of distraction from studies, both for clique members and for the outcasts they victimize; outcasts may suffer long-term psychological damage resulting from the bullying they suffer. Arguments have been made that cliques have been responsible for tragedies such as the Columbine High School massacre and teen suicide.

People who are part of a clique often have low self-esteem, and are obsessed with fitting in. In some cases it is not the clique itself that encourages drugs, but the stress members have to stay up to the standards. This sometimes leads to them abusing drugs and alcohol. These aren't the only dangers. For example, in a clique of girls where it is fashionable to be extremely, unhealthily thin, one may become obsessed with achieving this ideal. As a result, the other members may join in on the effort to be as thin as possible, leading to an unspoken competition between members who are now in danger of developing eating disorders. Other things a member might do just to fit in include: tagging, excessive spending, stealing, breaking school rules, engaging in sexual activity, fighting, skipping school, dropping out, dangerous pranks, and plots against peers or teachers.

See also[]

  • high school subcultures
  • Adolescence
  • Bullying
  • Social network
  • Crowd psychology
  • The Breakfast Club (movie)
  • Odd Girl Out (movie)
  • Mean Girls (movie)
  • Heathers (movie)
  • Jawbreaker (movie)
  • Carrie (movie)
  • Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (movie)
  • The Clique Movie (movie)

External links[]

als:Primärgruppe de:Primärgruppe simple:Clique

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