The status–power arena: a comprehensive agent-based model of social status dynamics and gender in groups of children

Gert Jan Hofstede*, Jillian Student, Mark R. Kramer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the urgency of this issue, AI still struggles to represent social life. This article presents a comprehensive agent-based model that investigates status-power dynamics in groups. Kemper’s sociological status–power theory of social relationships, and a literature review on school children in middle youth, is its basis. The model allows us to investigate causation of the near-ubiquitous phenomenon that females have lower social status on average than males. Possible causes included in the model are children’s dispositional traits (kindness, beauty, and physical power), schoolyard culture (social acceptability of fighting), behavioural strategy (amount of rough-and-tumble play) and the balance between public and dyadic sources of status. An agent-based model of a virtual schoolyard was created in which the children assemble in changing groups and mutually confer status. The status conferred upon a child modifies the status it holds. Rough-and-tumble is modelled as ambiguous: it is intended as a status conferral, but may be perceived as a power move. Running many trials of the model we found that in time, depending on the parameter settings, a gender-based status gap emerged. Rough-and-tumble play had more impact on emergent status differences than did physical power differences. Social acceptability of fighting also strongly moderated the resulting status gap. Placing more weight on dyadic relationship could alleviate status loss. All these model behaviours are in line with empirical findings of child behaviour studies at schools. They have face validity for social status issues in the adult world. We conclude from this that this kind of agent-based model merits use in studying the status–power dynamics of other issues in child behaviour, or indeed in social behaviour in general.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2511-2531
Number of pages21
JournalAI and Society
Issue number6
Early online date9 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Agent based model
  • Culture
  • Gender gap
  • Rough-and-tumble
  • Sociology
  • Status–power dynamics


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