Peer groups are generally identified as existing during childhood. There are, however, adult peer groups with the same advantages and disadvantages as those of children. Peer groups form from early interactions amongst children and continue to change and evolve throughout our lives. These changes occur due to moves, socioeconomic backgrounds, education and marriage. There are two recognisable advantages and two disadvantages of a peer group. Comprehending the group dynamics aids in the understanding of individual behaviours.
Peer pressure is one of the most recognised and studied disadvantages of peer groups. This is mostly driven by child psychologists, who work hard to understand the behaviours of children. Peer pressure is the pressing of a member of the collective group to behave in a manner that she finds unacceptable. Often, when parents are telling their children they may not participate in a behaviour, a child responds with what the other kids are doing. This response demonstrates a level of pressure felt by the child to participate in an activity or behaviour.
Peer groups have the ability to offer a great deal of support during a time of individual need. This is a distinct advantage for those groups that are very close. An individual who knows he can call on any member of the group during a time of need or tragedy has the benefit of multiple friendships versus an individual with one friend. While some groups may not be as close, strong bonds between two individuals may form within the group.
Whether an adult in the workplace or a child on the playground, peer rejection is felt at all levels. Rejection usually occurs early when the individual is trying to become a part of the peer group. The disadvantage is found in the feelings associated with rejection. These emotions include resentment, dislike, a feeling of isolationism and even depression. Managing all of these emotions can be challenging, especially if felt during times of transition. New schools, new jobs and other places with social interaction are all times of transition where rejection makes an individual vulnerable.
Peer groups that use peer pressure to influence an individual's behaviour are counterproductive to individuality. On the other hand, a peer group can find itself playing a strong role in individualism. Groups form when there is a commonality amongst members. Schools provide a strong demonstration of this. In schools, what an individual wears or how she looks often determines her peer group. In high schools, this becomes more prevalent as parents begin to allow their children to make their own decisions on what they will wear. In this case, individuality is enhanced as the group provides support for the individual to behave and look in a manner she finds most suitable.
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