Understanding of Adolescent Social and Peer Groups

  • The Adolescent Peer Group
    • A peer group is conceived as a small group of similarly aged, fairly close
                  friends, sharing the same activities.  Adolescents spend much of their time with
                  the other members of these groups.  Adolescents, particularly high school
                  students, spend twice as much of their time with their peers as with parents or
                  other adults.  
  • The Adolescent Friendship Pattern
    • Some adolescents have wide ranging friendships where they intermix with many peers, while others have relatively few friendships.  These friendship patterns form the social network that binds adolescents into an overall atmosphere of peer relationships.
    • The friendship patterns evident in adolescents' social networks have important implications for adolescent behaviors, including problem behaviors that could lead to friendship group being identified as a dangerous adolescent social group. 
    • Through friendships, adolescents learn about what others are doing, anticipate accepted and expected behavior, figure out how to present themselves, and find partners for trying out new behaviors.
  • Factors That Contribute to the Formation of Adolescent Peer/Social Groups
    • One of the most important aspects of adolescents' lives are their close ties with their peers. 
    • It is not until mid to late adolescence that friendship takes the role of intimate relationships. These peer groups are characterized by trust, self-disclosure and loyalty.
    • During this stage of development, adolescents are showing autonomy, or sense of being a separate person.  Also, the cognitive changes they are experiencing enable the adolescent to see situations from another person's point of view.  As a result of these developments, individuals experience a greater need for intimacy and an increased capacity to enter close relationships or peer groups. 
  • Importance of Peer Groups During Adolescence
    • Relationships with peers during the adolescent years come closer to serving as prototypes for adult relationships in social and work settings, as well as interactions with members of the opposite sex,
    • Teenagers who do not learn how to get along with others by the time they reach adulthood are likely to face obstacles in their adult years.
    • The role of the peer group in helping an individual to define his or her own identity becomes very important during adolescence.  The adolescent must get ready to meet society's demands for social independence, and for this reason, teens need the support and guidance of their peers.
    • What peer groups provide for the adolescent:
                         - The opportunity to learn how to interact with others
                         - Support in defining identity, interests, abilities and personality
                         - Autonomy without the control of adults and parents
                         - Opportunities for witnessing the strategies others use to cope with problems
                         - Emotional support
                         - Increase in social awareness and social decision making