Family Relationships And Peer Influence
Outside of the classroom, adolescents who have friends have better family relationships and more positive attitudes toward family relationships. Friendships can also compensate for inadequate families. For example, adolescents who have low levels of family cohesion but have close and supportive friends have levels of self-worth and social competence equal to their peers who come from cohesive families (Guaze et al. 1996). Friends allow for high self-esteem (which includes freedom from depression) and self-worth, thereby promoting the exploration and development of personal strengths (Hartup 1999). Furthermore, adolescents who are engaged in friendships are more likely to be altruistic, display affective perspective-taking skills, maintain positive peer status (Savin-Williams and Berndt 1990), and have continued involvement in activities such as sports or arts (Patrick et al. 1999). Finally, having close same-sex friendships in adolescence forecasts success in early romantic relationships in early adulthood (Collins et al. 1997).
Although peers are very important for adolescents during this developmental stage, parents also play an influential role in adolescents' lives. Laurence Steinberg and his colleagues (1992) found that adolescents whose friends and parents support academic achievement perform better than adolescents who receive support from only one, or neither. Hence, both parents and friends are important for adolescents' development. Moreover, adolescents are less influenced by friends when they have close and involving relationships with their parents (Steinberg and Silverberg 1986). The ability of friends to influence the behaviors and attitudes of adolescents is magnified when adolescents perceive that their parental relationship is negative or deficient in support and guidance (Savin-Williams and Berndt 1990). Parenting styles can also affect peer influence. Authoritative parenting encourages adolescents to be less susceptible to peer influence specifically in domains in which peers are engaging in unacceptable behaviors, but more susceptible to peer influence in domains that are approved by adults (Mounts and Steinberg 1995). Hence, parents can adjust their style of parenting to reflect these favorable outcomes.
In summary, peers are more influential in adolescence than at any other time in life. The quality of the relationship between adolescents and their peers, as well as the type of peers they associate with, play important roles in aiding or impeding their current and future functioning. There are aspects of all peer relations that are unique to the culture and environment in which they exist. The relationship parents have with their adolescents influences their children's susceptibility to negative peer influence.
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PETER T. HAUGEN
SHARON C. RISCH
DEBORAH P. WELSH