Peer Group Relations In Middle School And

High Sch Essay, Research Paper

Peer Group Relations In Middle School and High School Adolescence is the time when children move from family-centered life into a peer-centered existence. Adolescence is characterized by the acquiring of independence, a sexual identity, recognition of self and a place in society. Teenagers begin viewing friends as more influential than family. School and friends become the prime focus of adolescents, and friendships affect social and academic success in school. The friendship networks that adolescents have consist of many types of friends. Typically, all students have their friends in the school. Females tend to be more involved in school networks then males, and females also tend to be more emotionally invested in the social systems in school. Boys tend to associate with friends in the context of game playing, either athletics or computer based. Girls tend to associate by talking together, either about someone or something. (Carter and Carter, 13) Friendships tend to change forms as the adolescent matures.Middle School Friendships Elementary school students play in large groups, typically have one different best friend a month. Group divisions are usually along gender lines. Social life changes with the advent of middle school and puberty. Middle school students are thrust into a new situation at the time when they are most susceptible to low self-esteem. They deal with new bodies, a shift in cognitive abilities and when a new social system is introduced, like middle school, students can become lost or confused. Females, especially, experience a loss of self-esteem at this age. To deal with middle school, new social life skills emerge. Cliques become common in middle and late elementary school. Cliques allow members to have a safe haven to deal with new issues and a support system to help members to cope with life. Cliques usually consist of about six to eight friends and most frequently appear between fifth and eighth grade. (Degirmencioglu, Tolson and Halliday-Scher, 545) Groups play an important social and socializing role, provide emotional support and a place where individuals feel safe to talk about very intimate and personal dilemmas. (Carter and Carter, 12) Although cliques can be beneficial, they have some disturbing characteristics. Cliques can be close-minded. Anyone outside the clique is not considered as important as clique members. Fights between clique members are common, often resulting in the group being angry at one or two members. These fights are usually short lived and after a few days are forgotten. (Degirmencioglu, Tolson and Halliday-Scher, 545) In the middle schools, status among cliques and individuals becomes important. An adolescent becomes focused on showing others that he/she are powerful and popular. Ways to exert this power include phoning, public cutting and going out in public without parents. Phoning in early adolescence becomes a symbol of popularity. Middle school students often spend hours a night on the phone for several reasons. One is to feel important because someone has something so important to tell them that it can’t wait for the next day at school. Another is the busy signal, which gives the impression to whoever else is trying to call that the teenager has many friends. Finally cutting someone off to talk to a different friend gives the illusion of power to the adolescent; the adolescent has someone else he/she needs to talk to because he/she is so popular. (Elkind, 437) Cutting refers to not being recognized in public. When a teenager goes through all the motions of greeting a person, walks towards them, smiles, makes eye contact, and the person does not recognize them. This often happens in the junior high hallways. Cutting usually results in deep embarrassment for the recipient. Middle school students engage in this activity to show power over each other. (Elkind, 438)To see and be seen becomes important to adolescents, especially without parents, when adolescents are away from school, especially in the middle school years. They tend to be in homogeneous groups, with their buddies or their cliques. They came to the mall without their parents and to talk and hang out not to shop. (Stiles et al. 1997) These groups are usually “buddies”. Buddies are typically close friends who attend social activities together, such as going to the mall or movies.Best friends are also common at this age. They tend to occur among females. Best friends are normally in the same social cliques and group system. Females typically report having more intimate friends the males. (Degirmencioglu, Tolson and Halliday-Scher, 541) Best friends, unlike cliques and buddies are static, and can often remain the same into adulthood. (Degirmencioglu, Tolson and Halliday-Scher, 546) High School In high school, cliques tend to disperse. Typically, older adolescents report having different friends then they did in middle school. The process of growing from highly selective groups to larger, loosely connected groups is called degrouping. Older adolescents tend to also become more selective with the people who they become friends with. (Degirmencioglu, Tolson and Halliday-Scher, 541) Instead of small same-sex groups, high school students can be categorized in four groups or crowds. Crowds are the large groups of acquaintances that share a same recognized meeting place, such as a certain hallway and tend to spend free time together. Although the names of the groups change from school to school, the categories remain the same: the Brains, the Popular crowd, the Average and the Burn-Outs. (Downs and Rose, 480)The Brains are dubbed Brains because they excel in academic classes. They tend to belong to clubs that are scholastic in nature, such as chess club, science club and band. Their leisure activities include playing instruments, reading and computers. They have definite plans for college in their future. The label of Brains is considered positive by many because of the implied academic proficiency. Some saw Brains were seen as lacking social skills. Brains were seen as having limited experience with alcohol and drugs. (Downs and Rose, 480) The Popular Crowd tends to be a large group of students who were involved with social activities. Group members play sports, cheerlead, are in student government and are highly involved with school activities. The members of the Popular group are broken into subgroups such as Jocks, Cheerleaders and Socies. This group tends to focus on dating, primarily each other, and partying. They are less likely to list a bachelor’s degree in their future plans then the brains, but the majority of the Popular crowd does want to go to college. The Popular Crowd tends to use drugs and alcohol recreationally at their parties. (Downs and Rose, 481)

The Average Group is made of the average students. These students overlap activities with the brains and the popular crowds, but tend to be on the fringes of school life. Although they play sports and attend similar activities, they are not as involved in them. They are not likely to list a bachelor’s degree in their future plans. They are friends with many students in the other groups, but are considered lower in the status hierarchy. The Average Group is involved with drugs and alcohol more than the previous two groups, and because they are not heavily involved in school are considered moderate at-risk students. (Downs and Rose 481) The Burn-Outs are on the low end of the status hierarchy. They are uninvolved in school activities and considered to be delinquents by their peers. Burn-Outs are seen as being heavily involved in drugs and alcohol. Adolescents in other groups do not typically associate with Burn-Outs unless they are procuring drugs. Other labels for this group are Losers, Druggies and Rejects. (Downs and Rose 481-482) There is a marked way to social success as defined by the four groups. The Brains and the Popular groups tend to agree with the statement “Intimacy and nuturance were associated with beliefs that sincerity and consideration leads to social success.” (Jarvinen and Nicholls, 440) Students with positive attitudes towards family and a sense of belonging in school had higher self-esteem, better prosocial peer relations and higher motivation in school. (Gallagher, 49) Adolescents who are highly accepted in school have higher self-esteem and higher levels of academic achievement, which is typical of the Brains and the Popular Crowd. Less accepted adolescents are at risk in later social and psychological functioning. (Jarvinen and Nicholls, 435) Some students become so disillusioned with being involved and interacting with other students they discount popularity. Students in the Average and Burn-out crowd tend to place a less emphasis on popularity and leadership. They tend to be less sensitive to teasing and not believe that sharing feelings with peers is a way to be socially successful. Members of the Burn-out crowd tend to believe that being tough with peers is a way to social success. (Jarvinen and Nicholls, 440) Peer Pressure and Stress Parents sometimes worry that their child is going to be shaped negatively by their peer groups. Peer pressure is a factor in adolescent decision-making, although it is a danger to think that all adolescents follow like sheep what their peers do. Risk taking is especially common among adolescents because they believe no bad can happen to them. This includes drug abuse and unprotected sex. (Carter and Carter, 4) Peer pressure or the stress that others can apply to others peaks in adolescentsLifestyle choices in adolescence are typically dependent on peer pressure. Peer pressures includes pressure for recognition, pressure to appear grown-up and pressure to have fun. Peer pressure contributes to the initiation and the continued use of alcohol and drugs such as marijuana. Drug use is typically common among adolescents with low self-esteem and peer influence, such as the Burn-Outs or the Average Crowds. (Carter and Carter, 3) Peer pressure affects all students, but many students say they are resilient to it. Many adolescents report to value thinking for themselves and not being influenced by others. (Carter and Carter, 14) Many students spoke positively about their own groups, but then felt that the other groups in the school succumbed more frequently to peer pressure. The members of each group feel that they are particularly special to belong to the group and that the other groups were deficient in some way. (Carter and Carter, 15) Adolescents do not necessarily affect their friends. People with the same goals and desires are drawn to each other. Adolescents tend to be attracted to others that have similar tendencies and problems. This is called homophily. Selection refers to the tendency for an individual to choose friends who are similar to themselves. (Hogue and Steinberg, 897) Adolescents with internalized distress suffer from depression, anxiety and social withdrawal These adolescents tend to attract friends suffering from similar problems. Adolescents who are less stressed attract friends who are also less stressed. Those that suffer from social withdrawal tend to suffer from social stigmatism and rejection more often then those that are not withdrawn. (Hogue and Steinberg, 897) Sometimes the group affects its members. If a low distressed person is involved in a high stressed group, the adolescent may show increased levels of stress. It is more likely for a group to affect a member then a member to affect a group. (Hogue and Steinberg, 903) This is called socialization, which refers to the tendency for friends to shape and reinforce similar attributes to each other. It is possible that most of middle school and high school friendships are similarly distressed students circulating amongst each other. The way friendships form is important for educators, parents and counselors to understand. Friendships encourage, pressure, support and nurture. The friendship skills that a child learns in school are carried with him/her as he becomes an adult. Reference Page Carter, A. Butorac and S.M. Carter, Rethinking Adolescent Risk-Taking Behavior and the Peer Leader Dynamic. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, 1996,1-22 Degirmencioglu, Serdar M., Jerry M. Tolson and Kathy Halliday-Scher, The Structure of Adolescent Peer Groups. Developmental Psychology, 31, 1995, 540-547 Downs, William R. and Steven R. Rose. The Relationship of Adolescent Peer Groups to the Incidence of Psychological Problems. Adolescence. 21, 1994, 473-491. Elkind, David and R. Bowen R. Imaginary Audience Behavior in Children and Adolescents. Develpomental Psychology, 15, 1979, 38-44 Gallagher, Shawn L. Adolescents’ Perceived Sense of Belonging. Thesis paper. 1996 1-77 Hogue, Aaron and Laurence Steinberg. Homophily of Internalized Distress in Adolescent Peer Groups. Developmental Psychology, 31, 1995, 897-906 Jarvinen, Denis W. and John G. Nicholls. Adolescents’ Social Goals, Beliefs About the Causes of Social Success, and Satisfaction in Peer Relations. Developmental Psychology. 32, 1996, 435-441 Stiles, Deborah A., Ruth R. Kargus, Megan E. Quinn, Patricia R. Hammel and Yolanda F. Anderson. Young Adolescents at the Mall. The Transescent, February 1997, 5-7


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