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Peer Influence

Negative Peer Influence

Popular conceptions regarding the influence of peers in adolescence often focus on their negative effects—peer pressure—to the exclusion of current empirical research attesting to the myriad positive aspects of peer influence. Supportive relationships between socially skilled adolescents confer developmental advantages while coercive and conflictual relationships confer disadvantages. Willard H. Hartup (1996) summarizes the situation with the following statement: "Knowing that a teenager has friends tells us one thing, but the identity of his or her friends tells us something else" (p. 2).

Across a variety of cultural settings, adolescents tend to be friends with those who are most like them. In fact, sociodemographic characteristics are usually the strongest predictors of friendship formation. Different types of peer groups have unique capacities to encourage negative or positive behaviors in their members. Adolescent mis-conduct most often occurs in groups. In the United States, cliques are often distinguished from other peer groups through the pressure they exert on their members to conform to certain norms in school orientation, drug use, and sexual behavior. Researchers found clear differences among six different cliques in their participation in high-risk health behaviors, including smoking cigarettes, alcohol use, marijuana use, and engagement in illicit sexual behavior (Prinstein, Fetter, and La Green 2001). Furthermore, members of "deviantly ordered" cliques are more likely to drop out of high school (Cairns and Cairns 1994). Across many cultures, perceived behavior and sanctions of friends are among the strongest predictors of an adolescent's misconduct (Greenberger et al. 2000). Jill V. Hamm (2000) found that when compared with European-American and Asian-American adolescents, African-American adolescents chose friends who were less similar in terms of academic orientation or substance use, but more similar in terms of ethnic identity.


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaOther Marriage & Family TopicsPeer Influence - Development Of Peer Influence, Negative Peer Influence, Positive Peer Influence, Family Relationships And Peer Influence