To answer the question, to what extent do peer groups affect academic performance, in quantifiable terms is actually quite difficult. There are numerous variables to consider, however, here are a few statistics:
According to a study published by the Williams Project on the Study of Economics in Higher Education, stronger students do have an impact on their peers and actually help improve the overall academic performance of the peer group. In a comparison of students surveyed, 34% of African American students said that their friends make fun of people who are smart or do well in school. However, by 8th grade only 23% agreed with that statement--regardless of ethnicity. Another rather large study done by CREDE (the Center for Research in Education, Diversity and Excellence) suggests that peer groups are highly influential during early adolescence but that peers are less influential as kids get older. Undoubtedly, experts agree that peer groups have an influence on academic performance. What experts do not agree on is to what extent and the variables within that influence.
How Peer Groups Influence
There are several ways in which peers influence each other. Not all of them are bad. Variables of peer influence include the ethnicity of the students, the socio-economic background of the students, family relationships and group interests.
In some peer groups, being smart is looked down upon. Similarly, these groups tend to share low aspirations of going to college or getting certain careers. There may be other values in place, such as taking care of the family or making money sooner rather than going to college first.
In addition, studies suggest that peers influence each other more heavily in the early teen years. 14 year olds are more than twice as likely to engage in risky, self-destructive behavior than 18 year olds are. The theory is that by 18, a young man or woman is more autonomous and...