The Role of Peers in the Social and Emotional Development of Middle School Children
Eastern Illinois University
Some would say that peers play a significant role in the social and emotional development of middle school children. Some would say it is family that play a significant role in the social and emotional development of middle school children. However, studies show that peer play an important role in children’s life. Their peers can use peer pressure as a way to socialize and this could be in a positive or negative way. The influences given from their friends are important because the impact it carries.
Social Development is the development of social and emotional skills that develop across a life time. Without social development, individuals would not be able to form relationships with family, friends, and people through out our life. All ages are crucial when developing a strong social development, However, the middle age years can be considered very crucial based on the social relationships you may gain in those years. These types of relationships could be building a relationship with a coach for a sports team, a friend that is in the same class, or a teacher you see every day.
Although social development is very important, peer pressure can mean be considered a lot of definitions. “According to Aroonmalini Boruah, “Peer means the social group and “peer pressure” can be described as the sense of pressure exerted by a peer group in influencing a person’s attitude” (Boruah 2016). The influence that is made could really be made by anyone. This could be a teacher, a friend, a coach, and potentially your own family. However, there are two types of peer pressure, Negative and Positive. The decisions we make are based on the peer pressure received can truly affect your social and emotional development that can last lifetimes.
One form of peer pressure is positive. Positive peer pressure is only considered positive if it benefits the individual instead of harm. “The adolescence who reported of having a greater presence of peers in their lives also engages in greater physical activities while lonely children who are often friendless and isolated from peers report the least amount of physical activity” (Boruah 2016). A child who surrounds their self with many peers has a greater chance of participating in my physical activities and possible other interests. The least amount of participated was from the children who actually had surrounded their selves with less friends.
Another type of peer pressure is negative peer pressure. “Negative peer pressure is when your friends or other people your age try to convince you to do something that is either harmful to your body or is against the law” (Rafenstien 2002). Negative peer pressure can include many illegal things like underage smoking, drinking, drugs, stealing vandalism, or even skipping classes. However, negative peer pressure can easily happen if it gives you a negative image in society, or effects your life in any negative way. Many middle-aged children would typically begin doing activities that are apart of negative peer pressure mainly because their friends were doing it.
The outcomes of peer pressure usually depend on the type of peer pressure perceived. Both types of peer pressure can impact a child’s social and emotional development. Some children following through with the peer pressure because they want to feel a type of acceptance in the school. They focus on their image among their peers and want to be liked. “Peer acceptance is an important developmental milestone in early adolescence; it has been linked to early adolescents’ wellbeing, resilience, and success in and outside of school” (Oberle 2018). Peer acceptance is a very important factor when it comes to discussing our social and emotional development because when we do activities or like the same interests just to fit in it establishes a type of socialization among peers. Peer acceptance is hard to avoid especially when the child spends majority of their days among their peers in a class room setting. When children spend their days in the classroom setting socializing, that is when peer pressure could potentially be present. “Both–aggression and antisocial behaviors–indicate a lack of social-emotional competencies and are key predictors of peers rejection” (Oberle 2018). There was evidence that the lack of participation in activities and physical activity showed the lack of peers in a child’s life. Showing traits of antisocial behavior further proved the lack of peer acceptance in a child’s life. Therefore, the child will have a lack of emotional support from peers. Moreover, Peer acceptance goes hand in hand with social status in a social setting.
Developing bonds and friendships is necessary in the social development of the middle age years. “Individuals can be high in status because they are generally well-liked, or they can be perceived by peer group members as popular” (Meuwese, Cillisen, ; Guroglu 2017). Generally, middle age children could potentially tend to only care about image. Who you surround yourself with can affect your image which establishes your social status among a social setting such as a school. Children who tend to be well liked are the ones that are actively involved in activities such as sports or clubs. Sports and clubs tend to be a high setting that requires socialization with this being said this is how a child would expand their social group. Popularity can be observed as a bad or good thing. “Popular individuals are able to control resources and exert power over group members. Being associated with the most powerful can make some status re?ect on the a?liate and thereby in?uence how one is perceived by the rest of the peer group” (Meuwese, Cillisen, ; Guroglu 2017). The influence used among popular children can be considered a type of peer pressure and sometimes can be shown in a negative way. Peers learned to dress, act, and be s certain way which affects the emotional development of a middle-aged child. They learn to react to certain aspects in life that carries off on to other peers. When popular individuals begin control individuals or influence them to try different things that is when it definitely becomes negative peer pressure. Whether they influence them to try cheerleading or football that can be a positive type of peer pressure compared to telling an individual to harass another child because they’re not “pretty enough” or “cool enough” can be seen as negative peer pressure. However, how a child is perceived based on another influence can truly impact the social and emotional development of a child. If tell a child “You have no friends” or “you’re a loser” that is stereotyping the child into believing that they don’t have any friend, or they are a loser compared to other students. According to the article, Friends in high places: A dyadic perspective on peer status as predictor of friendship quality and the mediating role of empathy and prosocial behavior, they did a study to find a connection between friendships and peer status. Although researches argue whether or not there is a link between the two at all. Studies show something else. It is very interesting because some would reflect on their own personal experience and say there is a direct connection between the two. “APIM analyses showed simple partner e?ects of both types of peer status, indicating that if an adolescent was more preferred or more popular, their friend perceived the friendship more positively. If an adolescent was more preferred, their friend also perceived the friendship less negatively” (Meuwese, Cillisen, & Guroglu 2017). A friendship between two children happened to be more successful throughout school based on the sole fact of peer status. This could be reflecting on self-image on whom a child spends their time with in a social setting. Maintaining a social status seems so important among children because they spend majority of their time in a social setting compared to at home. If a child uses their social status as a way to determine what a person does or say it can be seen as well as a negative peer pressure. This also includes that a child lacks independent emotional development. When someone else does the deciding on who a person socializes with, what they say, or how they act it makes the child less independent in their emotional and social development. With this being said is there any type of way to keep this type of pressure from happening and is there any signs to see these types of outcomes from happening in an individual’s future?
Can the outcomes of negative peer pressure effect a child’s academic achievement? There have been studies to show the decline in academic achievement based on socialization of peers. “Academic achievement continued to decline throughout middle school. It is not only academic achievement that declines during the middle school years but also motivation and social adjustment” (Hall & Deperna 2017). Depending on the type of school a child attends, there can be a huge social adjustment. Sometimes children can mix in with children from other schools, have an adjustment to peer group, or even have an adjustment to course load that it could affect the potential of academic decline. Without our motivation that could also mean the lack of including their self in school groups. Children will participate less in activities there fore facing peer rejection have being surrounded by less peers. “Students who successfully transition to middle school do so through their relation to their peers, their academics, and the overall state of their mental health” (Hall & Deperna 2017). Not all children will experience the potential of academic decline. Those who continuously participate in activities and physical activities are forced to have a peer group because they socialize among their peers in these groups. Establishing a strong social development because of peers, it can also enhance your academic achievement. Without our peers we would experience the outcomes of peer rejection, less motivation and self-esteem. When discussing self esteem many would focus on body image, however, self esteem can be correlated with our social and emotional development. Children who experience peer pressure and focus on how they act and feel around their peers could potentially have lower self-esteem. Children could compare their self to how others look and act. “Peer rejection and low self-esteem are correlated with lower levels of academic achievement. Similarly, differences in middle school adjustment can have long-term effects on academic achievement and peer relations” (Hall & Deperna 2017). Sometimes peer rejection can be inevitable, however, we can enhance a child’s social development by giving the opportunity of participation.
There are also ways to avoid the outcome of negative peer pressure. “Studies have shown that adolescents’ susceptibility to peer pressure is related to parent–child relationship as well as adolescents’ emotional autonomy from parents” (Chan 2013). There is evidence that peer pressure is common among a relationship in a parent and child as well as emotional awareness. Depending on the relationship of the parent and child this can determine how much a child will give into peer pressure. “The significant influence of parental warmth on child development is widely accepted. It is regarded as an indication of parental acceptance and support” (Chan 2013). Providing warmth and acceptance to a child prevents from peer rejection from happening. Peer can be referred to a group (family), so without the warmth and acceptance of family a child could have to potential of feeling peer rejection which could ultimately affect their emotional development. With parent’s warmth and acceptance, they can easily avoid peer pressure if they build a strong bond with parents. However, children would be more susceptible if they have an open relationship with their parents and would be willing to listen more to their guidance over their friends’ groups. With the guidance of parents in a child’s life it can make a difference on how they interact among their peer groups. “Adolescents with warm and supportive parents probably perceive that their parents care about their well-being and are more likely to internalize their parents’ teachings” (Chan 2013). Children will reflect and remember the ways they were taught within their own family. They carry on these teachings throughout generations and sometimes with how the world is in the current day they adjust those teachings. However, when they internalize their parent’s guidance, they build their emotional development. They gain independent thoughts and follow their parents positive peer pressure to prevent negative peer pressure from happenings.
Although the parents can make a huge difference in a child’s social and emotional development at home, there are ways to make s difference in a school setting. Many middle school aged children struggled with the transition going into school. However, some schools are making a change and preparing middle school aged children for high school. “Social events led by upperclassmen, counselors, teachers, and administrators could involve eighth-graders in games and other enjoyable activities.” (Jett & Pulling 1995). These simple tasks can easily make a difference in the transition. Not only does it prevent negative peer pressure from happening, children will network and build friendships with other while participating in these activities. This gives the idea that children re-entering a welcoming and accepting atmosphere rather than feelings they have to act and be a certain way among their friends.
In conclusion, peer pressure plays a crucial role in Social and Emotional development of middle school children. Whether it be Negative or Positive, there is steps to preventing negative peer pressure happening in high school and that is preparing children during the middle years. This can include among friend groups, parental relationships with the child, and teaching at a school. With the new social skills that develop when a child immediately gets out of fifth grade, there are ways into making this positive and addressing these issues. ?
Oberle, E. (2018). Social-emotional competence and early adolescents’ peer acceptance in school: Examining the role of afternoon cortisol. PLoS ONE, 13(2), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192639
Meuwese, R., Cillessen, A. H. N., ; Güro?lu, B. (2017). Friends in high places: A dyadic perspective on peer status as predictor of friendship quality and the mediating role of empathy and prosocial behavior. Social Development, 26(3), 503–519. https://doi.org/10.1111/sode.12213Black, S. E., Devereux, P. J., ; Salvanes, K. G. (2013). Under Pressure? The Effect of Peers on Outcomes of Young Adults. Journal of Labor Economics, 31(1), 119–153. Retrieved from http://proxy.library.eiu.edu:2048/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true;db=bsh;AN=84334759;site=ehost-liveBoruah, A. (2016). Positive impacts of peer pressure: A systematic review. Indian Journal of Positive Psychology, 7(1), 127–130. Retrieved from http://proxy.library.eiu.edu:2048/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true;db=a9h;AN=115135344;site=ehost-liveRafenstein, M. (2002). How to Combat Negative Peer Pressure. Current Health 2, 29(1), 29. Retrieved from http://proxy.library.eiu.edu:2048/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true;db=a9h;AN=7346427;site=ehost-liveHall, G. E., ; DiPerna, J. C. (2017). Childhood Social Skills as Predictors of Middle School Academic Adjustment. Journal of Early Adolescence, 37(6), 825–851. https://doi.org/10.1177/0272431615624566Jett, D. L., ; Pulling, D. N. (1995). Preparing high schools for eighth-graders. Education Digest, 60(7), 19. Retrieved from http://proxy.library.eiu.edu:2048/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true;db=tfh;AN=9503072899;site=ehost-liveChan, S. M., ; Chan, K.-W. (2013). Adolescents’ Susceptibility to Peer Pressure: Relations to Parent–Adolescent Relationship and Adolescents’ Emotional Autonomy From Parents. Youth ; Society, 45(2), 286–302. https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X11417733