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Teens and peers

RADHIKA SOUNDAR

How much influence does the peer group have on your child?

Photo: R.V. Moorthy

Attitudes and behaviour: Decided by friends.

Teens spend more waking hours with peers than with members of their family. Their interaction is direct and thus very powerful.

This makes them more susceptible to the influences of their peers. As the children are trying to find and establish their identity, they engage in a lot of risky behaviour. And such urges are likely to generate strong feelings that are hard to break b y parents, teachers or any figure of authority.

Influence

Social influence has shown to be an important factor in a variety of situations, including educational performance and aspirations, delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual and attitudes and overall behavior.

That it happens is a well established fact. But why it happens needs to be understood clearly. The extent of the child’s emotional dependence on the group and the fear of isolation determine the necessity to fit in and the urgency to conform.

Thus one important signpost to the extent of influence is self esteem. The higher the self-esteem of the teen, the more independent the child and less influenced by his/her peers.

Contrarily, if a child feels compelled to fit in, the teen may do things that go against his or her beliefs simply to be part of the group. Peer relationships are largely determined by the child’s self-identity, self-esteem and self-reliance.

The author is a paediatric counsellor practising in Chennai. Email radhika_soundar@yahoo.com

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