The authors propose that under some circumstances peer influence, and the susceptibility to being influenced by peers, may not be such a bad thing after all, especially during adolescence. They tie peer influence to attachment theory and argue that being socialized means being ready to be influenced by others as one navigates the social world. The authors argue that the best way to modify peer influence effects may be to change the values that adolescents communicate with one another. A recent outreach program developed by these authors offers preliminary evidence to support this principle.
This study examined the dual roles of adolescents’ perceptions of social acceptance and sociometric popularity in predicting relative changes over time in adolescents’ social functioning. Observational, self-report, and peer report data were obtained from 164 adolescents who were interviewed at age 13 years and then again at age 14 years, as well as their same-sex close friends. Adolescents who felt positively about their own social standing fared well over time, regardless of their level of sociometric popularity. Further, low popularity was particularly problematic for adolescents who failed to see themselves as fitting in. Results suggest that during adolescence, when it becomes increasingly possible for teens to choose their own social niches, it is possible to be socially successful without being broadly popular.
This study examines the hypothesis that effective parental influence stems from the qualities of the parent-adolescent relationship rather than from explicit efforts to alter adolescents’ behaviors. Adolescents’ versus parents’ perceptions of parental influence as predictors of parent-adolescent relationship quality and of adolescents’ social functioning are examined using observational and multireporter data obtained from a sample of 167 adolescents (90 female, 77 male; age M = 13.34 years, SD = 0.65), their parents, and their same-sex peers. Analyses revealed that adolescents’ and parents’ perceptions of parental influence were uncorrelated with one another and were differentially related to qualities of adolescents’ relationships with parents and friends. Adolescents’ perceptions of high parental influence were linked to observations and self-reports of warm, supportive relationships with parents (particularly mothers). In contrast, parents’ reports of high influence were linked to lower levels of adolescent autonomy with parents and friends and less relatedness with mothers and friends.
The broader context of relational aggression in adolescent romantic relationships was assessed by considering the ways such aggression emerged from prior experiences of peer pressure and was linked to concurrent difficulties in psychosocial functioning. Longitudinal, multi-reporter data were obtained from 97 adolescents and their best friends at age 15 and from adolescents and their romantic partners at age 18. Teens’ relational aggression and romantic partners’ victimization were predicted from levels of best friends’ pressuring behaviors toward teens in an observed interaction as well as from best friends’ ratings of how much pressure teens experienced from their peer group. Romantic partner relational aggression and teen victimization were predicted by pressure from teens’ peer group only. Adolescents’ romantic relational aggression and victimization were also associated with elevated levels of depressive symptoms and increased alcohol use. Results are discussed in terms of the connection of relational aggression in romantic relationships to the broader task of establishing autonomy with peers in psychosocial development.
To test the social learning–based hypothesis that marital conflict resolution patterns are learned in the family of origin, longitudinal, observational data were used to assess prospective associations between family conflict interaction patterns during adolescence and offspring’s later marital conflict interaction patterns. At age 14 years, 47 participants completed an observed family conflict resolution task with their parents. In a subsequent assessment 17 years later, the participants completed measures of marital adjustment and an observed marital conflict interaction task with their spouse. As predicted, levels of hostility and positive engagement expressed by parents and adolescents during family interactions were prospectively linked with levels of hostility and positive engagement expressed by offspring and their spouses during marital interactions. Family-of-origin hostility was a particularly robust predictor of marital interaction behaviors; it predicted later marital hostility and negatively predicted positive engagement, controlling for psychopathology and family-of-origin positive engagement. For men, family-oforigin hostility also predicted poorer marital adjustment, an effect that was mediated through hostility in marital interactions. These findings suggest a long-lasting influence of family communication patterns, particularly hostility, on offspring’s intimate communication and relationship functioning.