Peer Groups

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Peer groups are an important influence throughout one's life, but they are more critical during the developmental years of childhood and adolescence. There is often controversy about the influence of a peer group versus parental influence, particularly during adolescence. Recent studies show that parents continue to have significant influence, even during adolescence, a reassuring finding for many parents. It appears that the power of the peer group becomes more important when the family relationships are not close or supportive. For example, if the parents work extra jobs and are largely unavailable, their children may turn to their peer group for emotional support. This also occurs when the conflict between parents and children during adolescence, or at any time during a child's development, becomes so great that the child feels pushed away and seeks closeness elsewhere. Most children and adolescents in this situation are not discriminating about the kind of group they join. They will often turn to a group simply because that group accepts them, even if the group is involved in illegal or negative activities. Gang involvement, for example, is a common form of organized—often antisocial—peer interaction. Gangs may be based on ethnicity, sex, and/or common activity. Most youths who join gangs come from families where drug and alcohol use, financial burdens, and broken relationships are common. The need for affiliation or closeness is often greater than the need to "do the right thing" for some adolescents who feel isolated and abandoned by members of their own family. Being part of a gang provides such individuals with acceptance and security not available at home or in other peer groups. Membership in peer groups

Despite significant gains in diversity training, current studies continue to show that children are less likely to accept those who are different from themselves. The differences can be as obvious as physical impairments, or as subtle as differences...
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