PEER INFLUENCE VERSUS FAMILY INFLUENCE
‘Whether the home is headed by one parent or two, whether the parents are happily married or constantly rowing, whether they believe in pushing their children to succeed or leaving them to find their own way in life, whether the home is filled with books or sports equipment, whether it is orderly or messy, a city flat or a farmhouse – the research shows, counter intuitively, that none of these things makes much difference’.
With reference to the claims of the article from which this quote is taken, and at least three of the E219 themes, you are required to write an essay of 2500 words discussing the relative significance of peers and family in influencing child development in middle childhood.
These claims are made by developmental psychologist Judith Harris in a newspaper article from The Telegraph titled ‘Children “learn most from peers not parents”’ by Graeme Paton. Harris’s argument is that outside influences such as popular culture, friends or street gangs have a much greater influence on children than family life or even genetic make-up. This TMA asks you to critically examine the strengths and weaknesses of this argument, assessing the relative importance of peers and family for children’s development.
The starting point for TMA 02 is the newspaper article from The Telegraph. Before you start thinking about how you plan to answer the assignment question, you should read the article below and these guidance notes.
For this assignment, your task is to choose at least three of the module themes, identify relevant Part 2 materials relating to your chosen themes and the assignment topic, search for further relevant materials outside the module, and write an essay discussing how these themes relate to the article’s claims.
For TMA 02 you are also expected to conduct some of your own research into relevant sources beyond the module materials: for example, by carrying out a bibliographic search using the Open University Library resources, Google Scholar or other search tools. You can gain significant marks by demonstrating that you have made use of relevant materials beyond those provided to you.
Introduce the essay, you might briefly highlight the differences between peer-to-peer interactions and adult-to-child interactions, setting these in the wider context of understanding child development. Here you can list the aspects referred to in the article.
Identify and describe the ways in which a child’s friends, peers and the culture they grow up in can be considered to influence their development, drawing on themes from E219.
Identify and describe the ways in which family environments may influence children’s development, also drawing on E219 themes.
Summarise and reach a reasoned conclusion on the basis of the previous sections as to whether the claims made in the article are a reasonable interpretation of the evidence. If you feel that in places the claims go beyond what the evidence suggests or are not a balanced argument, explain why this is.
Conclude by suggesting questions that future research needs to address in order to gain a deeper understanding of the influence of peers in a child’s development.
A first step is to read the article carefully and to list the main points that the text makes about the importance of peer influences on children’s development. This will give you material to use in the introduction to your essay. Next, think about the links between the points raised in the article and the material covered in the module. For example:
Chapter 6, Section 4 discusses attachment and peer relationships. In middle childhood, peer relationships become increasingly prominent. As children begin to strive for independence, so their motivations to explore the world away from attachment figures grow.
In the Week 9 Study Guide, the ‘Sociometry’ video examines peer relationships at school. Although many children will have had some experience in preschool early years settings, they now enter a new type of social group, often with other, unfamiliar children from a wider range of backgrounds. In this new setting they have to adapt to much more complex social situations with new peers.
Chapter 7, Section 4.3 looks at children’s feelings about people who belong to different groups. Peer influence is discussed in the context of nationality and ingroup/outgroup reasoning.
In the Week 13 Study Guide there is an introductory audio featuring Karen Littleton. She talks about children’s collaborative learning and the significance of peer interactions for the development of knowledge and ideas.
Chapter 9, Section 2.2 examines influences on development from a risk perspective. There are particular risks which come from a child’s own temperament, from poor parenting or from genetic factors, but there are also risks which are external to both children and parents. While inadequate caregiving is certainly a crucial factor in understanding the risks posed to children, wider social or structural factors must also be taken into account.
In terms of understanding the interaction between family and peers on influencing child development, you may consider the societal-social-cognitive-motivational theory (outlined in Chapter 7, Section 5.3 in the context of identity development). This tries to account for the variability that occurs in the development of national identity, both across countries and within countries, and to explain how the development of national identity is affected not only by cognitive-developmental factors and social-identity processes but also by media, schooling and the family.
Keep in mind that this essay is about comparing the influences of peers and families; for content about influences within families that you can use in constructing your essay, you can draw widely from the materials that you have already studied in this module.
As well as the module Chapters, you can also make use of material in the Readings and the audiovisual elements of Part 2. Keep in mind that you need to be aware of the differential value of different sorts of evidence.
You are expected to draw on sources beyond the module materials as noted above and this can enhance your essay, gaining marks.
In writing your essay, think about the following list of different knowledge levels, and try to use all of Levels 1–4. For this second assignment, you are also expected to demonstrate some application of Level 5, probably mainly in your conclusion(s).
Level 1: Describe
Level 2: Summarise/List/Exemplify
Level 3: Contrast/Distinguish/Synthesise
Level 4: Evaluate/Critique/Consider/Discuss
Level 5: Apply/Formulate/Design
PEER INFLUENCE VERSUS FAMILY INFLUENCE
The relationship that children create with their age mates from as early as six months via adolescence exerts significant impact on their future lives. Nevertheless, this tender form of friendship is usually viewed by many guardians as child’s play as they do not realise the enormous impact that the friendship plays in their lives. It is therefore not surprising when it is noted that children tend to learn more from their fellow friends rather than their own parents. Leading psychologists reveal that parents who focus on paying attention to their children as they teach them on the differences between what is good and bad have minimal impact on how they come to develop in future (Graeme Paton. “Children ‘learn most from peers not parents.”) The necessity of surviving in school and engaging their friends has been regarded to be an important factor that influences the behaviour of a child. Statistics reveal that children who are brought up in well-disciplined families are equally likely to become hooligans as their counterparts who are brought up in chaotic homesteads if they happen to interact with unruly friends at a tender age. Scholars reveal that this type of relationship fosters positive feelings via friendship and it also contributes to adjustments in school as well as the problems that the child may face in future in the form of harassment and rejection. It is worth noting that children start their lives living together with their families in a social society (Meldrum et al., 2013). However, as the children mature, they begin a new phase of life where they are acquainted to a new social life composed of peers. In this form of living, they mostly spend most of their time with friends of a similar age group.
How Attachment and peer relationships affect the life of a child.
Attachment and peer relationships are experienced by children during their middle childhood when they are mostly in school. It is during this stage that children discover the aspect of independence and they have the sudden motivation to see their sights in higher levels (Bleske-Rechek and Kelley, 2014). The maturing children experience the feeling of detachment as they aspire to be on their own and make personal life decisions. The personal life decisions mostly include the type of company that they want to have, the type of course they wish to pursue in school and general life choices such as the type of clothing. It is clear that the children at this stage are usually conversant with the type of groups they desire to associate with as they mostly retain their first friends that they make while young. However, at this stage, a new form of social group arises usually composed of new children coming from various forms of backgrounds. The new type of environment calls for tolerance as the children adapt to the new and rather difficult social conditions with novel peers (Trzaskowski et al., 2014). The kind of relationships that children cultivate when growing up greatly differ from the behaviour that they experience with their guardians as well as their fellow siblings. The new relationships enable them to learn new skills which considerably influence their development.
Peer relationships tend to be well balanced as the partners seek to unite their unique heights of ability, thinking as well as skills to their group interactions. When schooling, children encounter challenges such as forming new friendships, maintaining the prevailing friendships, fitting in peer groups as well as avoiding bullies. These interactive skills are not easily attained as the kid requires complex thinking coupled with behavioural skills. Peer relationships are common in school and they play an important role as the children learn the values of confidence, how to solve conflicts, how to easily earn respect as well as how to manage aggression (Bleske-Rechek and Kelley, 2014). Psychologists also reveal that playing among peers provides them with essential opportunities that enable them deliberate on feelings, improve on their thought processes and understanding and also experiment on the existing language and their social roles. The behaviour of a child is not entirely determined by the peers they associate themselves with when growing. There is some small degree of behaviour in children that is influenced by their guardians and siblings as they learn from what they do when they are with them. It is more likely for children whose parent who engages in coercive behavior to also emulate their behavior and become like them as they grow. Similarly, when a guardian imparts their children with the aspect of empathy, it is more likely that the children will consider the feelings of their peers as they engage in their daily activities. However, it is worth noting that some aspects of a child’s social competence are innate therefore however much effort is put into changing the behavior, little success is guaranteed.
Children’s Feelings about People Who Belong to Different Groups
The feeling of a child regarding people who originate from various different groups partially determines how they interact with others in the future. How a child responds to people from different nationalities as well as those who are not in their group could tell what type of a person the child is going to be in future. If the child accepts and accommodates the foreigners, then it is more likely that the kid will be accommodative and friendly (Lieberman, 2016). If a kid resists people from different nationalities and outside groups, it is less likely that they will change in future as they are not accommodative when they are young as this is the stage when a person is most honest. Children who accept collaborative learning with foreign students and also accommodate foreigners in their groups are likely to make good leaders in future. The wide geographical knowledge advances in a sequence composed of four major stages. The initial stage is normally the pre-stage that is normally characterized with ignorance. The pre-stage lasts up to around five years from birth then the three stages follow in a developmental manner. The first developmental stage starts when a kid is around five years and lasts up to when the kid is around eight years old (Lieberman, 2016). During this stage, the child begins learning about the presence of various nationalities and groups like the French people, Indian people, Swiss people, British people and many other nationalities. However, the pattern of the children’s preferences, as well as attitudes, is usually idiosyncratic at this young age as they are normally founded on former individual experiences.
It is believed that it is at the intermediate stage that the views of children converge with the views that are usually conveyed in their existing social environments. The views of children in this group tend to favour particular groups while they have negative and neutral views on specific societies based on the existing stereotypes in the community that the child resides. It is also worth noting that teenagers at this intermediate phase start exhibiting systematic preferences towards people found in their group (Jennings and Niemi, 2015). The final stage involves the development of children who are around ten years old onwards. Children in this stage tend to be rather independent of their environment more so the social environment when making decisions as well as evaluations. It is also worth noting that children at this stage undergo the concept of reciprocity about foreigners who visit their countries. Children at this stage tend to believe that foreign tourists have the same emotional feeling to the countries they visit as the feeling that they experience towards their nation. Psychologists also reveal that as early as six years old, a child may not hold any positive stereotypes about a community but rather negative stereotypes (Jennings and Niemi, 2015). It is not always easy making new friends whether in school or in the outside environment as most parents tend to believe. Children find it difficult joining on-going schools and this tendency also exists among toddlers who are find themselves being rejected by fellow peers. Nevertheless, there are those aggressive children who easily join existing groups while some find it a challenging endeavour.
Influences on the Development of Children from a Risk Perspective
Children are normally influenced on their development when they are viewed from the perspective of the risk they are exposed to in their life. There have been risks established to originate from the temperament of a child, inadequate child raising or from inborn genetic factors (Parke and Ladd, 2016). However, there are external risks associated with the development of a child too and they are found in both the parent and child. When considering the risks that a child is exposed to when they are growing, there are wide structural factors that are considered and poor care-giving is well studied. Inadequate care by the parents greatly affects children as they are exposed to many dangers.
Nervous and excessively aggressive children tend to find themselves in bully-victim associations which have been noted to have bad effects on both parties. It is common to find children experiencing social difficulties being excluded from day to day activities as they undergo feelings of uneasiness, sadness and separation. Excessive peer conditions can turn out to be stressful to the children and if solved early enough, can contribute to feelings of anxiety, despair and loneliness (Leung et al., 2014). On the other hand, there is the other group of youths who are happy with just a few good pals compared to others who feel justified by large groups. The disparity in behaviour is wide as others are born aggressive while there are those children who are passive. There are considerable differences into how different children encounter interpersonal endeavours like making new friends as well as initiating a social repute among peers. Scholars suggest a number of interventions of how to assist children enhance their interpersonal social skills as well as peer relationships (Leung et al., 2014). These interventions include enlightening the children on pro-social group interaction expertise as well as the relevant skills required to minimize such tendencies for it has been noted that aggression may go a long way in improving peer acceptance.
influence greatly affects the life of children when they are still growing
compared to the advice they receive from their parents. Parents are therefore advised
to be keen on how they improve the peer relationship of their children as it
involves more than simply increasing the social competence of children without
altering their existing peer and domestic environments. It is important that
parents ensure that their children receive adequate care when they are young
and that they are in the right company of peers. Nonetheless, it is important
to eliminate undesirable relationships and reputations which have been rooted
in our societies for years. It is therefore important for parents to enlighten
their children on the values of tolerance and compassion, and they must also
teach them on how to accept their personal difference.
List of References
Bleske-Rechek, A. and Kelley, J.A., 2014. Birth order and personality: A within-family test using independent self-reports from both firstborn and laterborn siblings. Personality and Individual Differences, 56, pp.15-18.
Graeme Paton. Wednesday 18 January 2017. The Telegraph. Children ‘learn most from peers not parents.’
Jennings, M.K. and Niemi, R.G., 2015. Political character of Adolescence: The Influence of Families and schools. Princeton University Press.
Leung, R.K., Toumbourou, J.W. and Hemphill, S.A., 2014. The effect of peer influence and selection processes on adolescent alcohol use: a systematic review of longitudinal studies. Health psychology review, 8(4), pp.426-457.
Lieberman, D.A., 2016. Childhood: Environment. In The Case Against Free Will (pp. 55-80). Palgrave Macmillan UK.
Meldrum, R.C., Miller, H.V. and Flexon, J.L., 2013. Susceptibility to Peer Influence, Self‐Control, and Delinquency. Sociological Inquiry, 83(1), pp.106-129.
Parke, R.D. and Ladd, G.W. eds., 2016. Family-peer relationships: Modes of linkage. Routledge.
Trzaskowski, M., Harlaar, N., Arden, R., Krapohl, E., Rimfeld, K., McMillan, A., Dale, P.S. and Plomin, R., 2014. Genetic influence on family socioeconomic status and children’s intelligence. Intelligence, 42, pp.83-88.