The Characteristics and Function of Peer Relationships in Early

Adolescence Development
Prior to children becoming adults, they often undergo several
developmental stages. Psychologists classify human development process
into assorted classes, including infancy, childhood, adolescence and
adulthood. Infancy refers to the development stage between birth and two
years. Kids within this development stage have the entire essential
features for sustaining them alive such as swallowing, breathing,
eliminating body waste, swallowing, and sucking. Infants so also respond
to pressures when they are touched slightly on the cheek by looking at
towards the direction the pressure is coming from, or through opening
their mouths. After infancy, a child enters into childhood stage that
broadly ranges from two to thirteen years. Children in this development
stage are mobile and start developing independence from their
caregivers. As they grow physically and mentally, children in both
early, middle and late childhood continue becoming independent from
their caregivers, especially, after joining education institutions.
Adolescent, an intricate development phase that links childhood and
adulthood, follows this growth phase. The body begins processing sex
hormones thus, kids in this growth stage have the capacity to
reproduce. The onset of sex hormones production stimulates sexual desire
among the kids to intensify. This stage lasts between fourteen and
eighteen years. Lastly, children enter into adulthood phase that ranges
from 19 years until old age. Early adulthood ranges between nineteen and
thirty-five years. Middle adulthood extends from thirty-five years to
sixty years. People start experiencing decreasing muscle strength.
Lastly, old age starts from sixty until death. Peer relationships in
early adolescence of an individual are essential because they help in
determining characters of a person in the adult life. This paper
hypothesizes that peer pressure, peer crowds, peer cliques, and parental
influence are the main peer relationship characteristics that aid in
adolescents development.
During infancy, the ways children associate to their parents determine
their peer relationship. In the theory of secure attachment, children
with stable relationships develop security and courage for engaging with
their peers and strangers when the caregiver is present. However, the
infants become distressed and unwilling to interact with their peers in
case their caregivers are not present. On the contrary, infants with
poor relationships with their caregivers are happy when associating with
their peers. These children are comfortable interacting with strangers
even in the absence of their presence. In brief, either good or poor
relationship of infants with their parents can encourage peer
relationships, but under different circumstances (Ainsworth & Bowlby,
1978). Securely attached infants interact comfortably with their peers
in the presence of their caregivers. Conversely, infants with poor
relationship with their caregivers become detached and vulnerable to
influence of peers, even in the absence of their caretakers (Bakken &
Brown, 2011). This means that parent-infant relationship can either
promote or hinder peer relationships of their young ones. This research,
therefore, supports the hypothesis of this essay that peer relationships
affect adolescent development.
Early childhood development refers to children aged between two and six
years. Throughout this stage, kids begin dissociating with their
parents, especially after joining schools. Prior to joining school,
children have an excellent opportunity for interacting with other
children. In this time, they become skilled in feeling secure in the
company of others as well as, help to broaden the perspectives of the
children. Middle childhood ranges from six to ten years. Many children
in this category are in school, and highly vulnerable to peer-pressure.
These effects are depicted in the form of monolithic, repressive and
unidirectional influence that risks personal independence and challenges
moral behaviors (Brown et al, 1986). Children in this stage are
vulnerable to negative peer-pressure since they are trying to acquire
behaviors that would enable them to identify with certain groups.
Although behaviors vary from one group to the other differ
significantly, individual characters do also vary (Brown et al, 1986).
However, all children adopt behaviors of their peers in order to conform
to the norms of the new company. On the contrary, children in the late
development stage who maintained close relationships with their parents
were capable of maintaining excellent performance. During the late
childhood, children are vulnerable to developing negative peer-influence
behaviors such as smoking, taking alcohol and skiving school in order to
feel independent. However, psychologists assert that children who
maintain close contact with their parents maintain positive behaviors.
This is because parents are able to give them appropriate advice.
During the early childhood, children’s relationship with their parents
influences their adolescent development. According to Bakken & Brown
(2011), parents with good relationship with children are able to
encourage them to develop positive behaviors. This is because parents
are able to monitor the behaviors of their children and correct them
accordingly. Moreover, parents with a close relationship with children
during their infancy stages are at a better vantage to detect
inappropriate behaviors in their children compared to parents with poor
association with their children. Ainsworth and Bowlby (1978) explain
peer influence to their children based on the attachment theory. Their
researchers defined successful outcomes as “secure attachment”.
Conversely, unsuccessful results were explained as either anxious
avoidant or anxious ambivalent insecure attachments.
Children with good relationship with their parents are described as
having secure attachment with their parents. These children explore
freely in the presence of caregivers. This implies that they even have
the courage for engaging with strangers. When a caregiver departs, these
children get upset, and no longer engage with the strangers. After the
caregivers return, the children become happy once more. On the contrary,
infants with poor relationships with their parents are vulnerable to
developing either anxious –ambivalent or anxious-avoidant insecure
attachments. In case parents have poor relationships with their
children, they often develop anxious –ambivalent insecure attachment
(Brown et al, 1986). Infants develop the former condition in case they
have a poor relationship with their caregivers. These infants are
anxious of strangers and exploration, including, in the presence of
caregivers. These infants become extremely distressed when caregivers
depart. Once the caregivers return, the infants are unsure, but they
prefer to remain close to them. Nevertheless, they become indignant and
defiant when caregivers dedicate attention to them. On the other hand,
infants suffering from anxious-avoidant insecure attachment condition
have little connection with the caregivers. When the caregivers depart,
these children are indifferent. Similarly, they associate with strangers
in almost the same way they relate to their caregivers (Ainsworth &
Bowlby, 1978).
A crowd is a group of children with similar characteristics. Children
become eligible members of given groups because they have a similar
reputation or image with people in a given group. Although children
identifying with the crowds may not approve possession of the said
features, they may experience pressure of behaving of that group in
order to become a member of a crowd. This implies that children are
forced to behave like members of a given crowd thus, affecting their
adolescent development. For example, children who identify with varied
crowds such as cheerleaders, jocks and nerds have distinct behaviors
that help to differentiate them from other community members (Brown et
al, 1986).
Similarly, cliques influence peer-relationship behaviors that control
adolescent development because children have to behave in a given way in
order to become members of the groups. Cliques contain kids, who are
affiliated based on diverse factors such as socioeconomic status, age,
race, and gender. Members of these groups often have shared activities
and interests that children willing to join them must adopt. This makes
membership to this group influence behaviors of children as well as,
affect their adolescent development process (Closson, 2009). Examples of
people identifying with these groups may include bad boys, floaters and
pleasers.
In conclusion, this essay supports the hypothesis that peer pressure,
peer crowds, peer cliques, and parental influence are the main peer
relationship characteristics that aid in adolescents development.
However, the theory of attachment is disputable because it asserts that
children develop characteristics that are similar to their parents.
However, this is not necessarily true because children may develop
unique features from their parents. Harris (1998) argues that it is
possible for a child to adopt other unique behaviors that are different
from their parents. The author gives an example of immigrants’
children. While parents may have an accent and communication skills in
English, their children can communicate in English without accent
interference. In spite of the fact that these children may communicate
in their mother tongues when at home, the kids are able to learn
flawless English communication skills from their peers. This weakens the
attachment theory that asserts that parents play a critical role in
determining behaviors and outcome of their children during the
adolescent stage.
References
Bakken, J.P. & Brown, B. B. (2011). Parenting and Peer Relationships:
Reinvigorating Research on Family – Peer Linkages in Adolescence.
Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(1), 153 – 165
Ainsworth, M. D & Bowlby, J. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A
psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, N.J: Lawrence
Erlbaum Associates.
Brown, B.B., Lohr, M.J & McClenehan, E.L. (1986). Early Adolescents’
perceptions in peer pressure. The journal of early adolescence. 6(2).
139 – 154.
Harris, J. R. (1998). The nurture assumption: Why children turn out the
way they do. New York: Free Press.
Closson, L.M. (2009). Aggressive and prosocial behaviors within early
adolescent friendship cliques. Merril-Palmer Quarterly. 55(4).
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