Chapter 7

The Importance of Friendships

Group Identity: Adolescents experiment with new behaviors with their friends and, in doing so, discover new things about themselves. The psychosocial task in early adolescence may be more one of forming a group identity than of achieving a personal identity. The latter task assumes salience in mid-adolescence when issues related to affiliation and belonging have been resolved, and adolescents are ready to address the differences that distinguish them from others.
Key Terms: group identity

Gossip and Self-Disclosure: Friendships change with age. Those of preadolescents reflect a concern with being accepted. Preadolescents use gossip as a way of affirm-ing group norms and their membership in the group. Adolescent friendships reflect a concern with self-discovery, and self-disclosure becomes important to this process.
Key Terms: gossip, self-disclosure

Friends and Self-Esteem: Friends contribute to adolescents’ well-being; they facilitate the formation of an ideal self-image and are important sources of self-esteem
Key Terms: self-esteem, ideal self-image

Parents and Self-Esteem: Parents also contribute to well-being. Interactions that communicate support, affection, and encouragement promote self-esteem.

Friendship Patterns

Age Differences in Friendship Patterns: Patterns of friendship differ with the age and sex of adolescents. Early adolescent girls’ friendships focus on the activities that bring friends together. Mid-adolescent girls’ friendships are concerned with the personal qualities of friends more than before. Girls want friends they can confide in and trust. Friendships in late adolescence focus more on personalities. Intimacy continues to grow and more friends are of the opposite sex. Boys’ friendships in early adolescence are also centered on shared activities. By middle adolescence, their friendships are as close emotionally as girls’ friendships, but involve less discussion of feelings.

Gender and Friendships: Close friendships for most adolescents are with peers of the same gender, especially in early adolescence. But beyond this, there are few differences between girls and boys in the ways they relate to their friends.

Adolescents and the Internet: Increasing numbers of teenagers stay in touch with each other through the Internet, with email, instant messaging, and social networking sites, and through cell phones and text messaging. Of those who communicate this way, their activities typically involve more than conversations. Nearly two-thirds use the Internet to post videos or photos online, original artwork, stories, or for maintaining an online journal or a personal webpage.

Social Competence: There are several dimensions to social competence: assessing a situation, responding to it, and knowing that relationships take time to develop. Competent adolescents are better able to see what is going on in a social situation and adapt their behavior accordingly. They also realize that developing friendships takes time.
Key Terms: social competence

Social Status: Who’s In and Who’s Not: Popularity can refer to social preference, how much others like you, or to social prestige, how much others look up to you. Popular adolescents who enjoy social prestige often use either physical or relational aggression to both achieve and maintain their status within the group. Adolescents can be categorized into five social statuses based on the frequency with which classmates nominate them as someone they “like the most” or “like the least:” popular, rejected, controversial, average, and neglected. Intervention programs address problems in peer relationships, such as having poor social skills, being overly aggressive, or having a negative self-image.
Key Terms: popular, social preference, social prestige, prosocial behaviors, physical aggression, relational aggression, rejected adolescents, controversial adolescents, average adolescents, neglected adolescents, social skills training, social-cognitive intervention

Interethnic Friendships: Interethnic friendships form when adolescents live in integrated neighborhoods and attend integrated schools. Classroom climates affect the formation of such friendships, which are likely to develop when students are assigned to small groups to work together in a noncompetitive atmosphere. Interethnic friendships face challenges posed by different enculturation experiences. Adolescents of different backgrounds can perceive and react to the same situation differently, and misinterpretations and hurt feelings can result.
Key Terms: enculturation

Friendships and Sexual-Minority Youth: Sexual-minority youth have more fears and concerns about relationships with their peers and experience more friendship loss than heterosexual youth. However, by late adolescence, they have more close friends than heterosexual youth.
Key Terms: sexual-minority youth

The Peer Group

The peer group regulates the pace of socialization. Adolescents who either fall too far behind or move too far ahead of their friends are dropped from the group.
Key Terms: peer group

Cliques and Crowds: The most common type of peer group is the clique, though only about half of students belong to one. Adolescents not in cliques may be liaisons, who have friends in several cliques, or isolates, who are not part of the social network. The larger peer group, crowds, let adolescents try out new social skills. The crowd is primarily important in helping adolescents move into mixed-sex interactions, whereas clique activities provide feedback about the success of new social skills. Cliques and crowds change in importance as adolescents age. They are most important in mid-adolescence and become less so as adolescents begin to form couples who are “going together.”
Key Terms: clique, liaison, isolate, crowd

Crushes and Dating: Before dating begins, adolescents go through a stage in which they develop crushes. Dating tends to begin anywhere between the ages of 12 and 16. Girls start somewhat earlier than boys. The most important determinant of when they start to date is whether their friends are dating.
Key Terms: crush, dating

A Youth Culture

School: School provides adolescents with a society of their peers. Adolescents may value academic achievement less than athletic achievement or being involved in many school activities.

Conformity and Peer Pressure: Conformity peaks in early adolescence. Adolescents with high social status and a well-developed sense of self are less likely to feel the need to conform. Authoritative parenting also gives adolescents skills that help them make decisions for themselves.
Key Terms: conformity, peer pressure

Values: The values of peers and parents more frequently complement each other than conflict, and most adolescents have friends with values similar to theirs. When adolescents seek advice from parents and friends, they are more likely to seek parental advice concerning long-term life decisions and the advice of friends in daily matters. With age, adolescents become more comfortable in making their own decisions.

Peers and Parents: When Values Conflict: Peers have an important influence on deviant behaviors. Gender differences exist in response to peer pressure; boys consider the anticipated outcome more, and girls consider peer approval and friendship more. Despite the importance of the peer culture, adolescents and parents share many basic values.

Youth Organizations: Many adolescents participate in structured voluntary activities such as sports, the creative arts, or volunteer work. These activities build skills and develop initiative because they are intrinsically motivating and challenging, and because they demand adolescents’ concentrated attention.
Key Terms: structured voluntary activities