Healthcare Training Institute - Quality Education since 1979
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A sense of group belonging is a psychological construct (Kiesner, Cardinu, Poulin, & Bucci, 2002; Stone & Brown, 1999). Adolescents participate in a complex social environment populated by many friendship groups, cliques, and crowds. The desire to belong to a group may influence an adolescent's behavior well before he or she is actually a member of the group. Individuals may change their behavior in order to gain peer acceptance. Thus, one's peer group affiliation does not need to be reciprocated in order to influence behavior. Research with adolescents supports the relevance of group belonging for positive adjustment. Closeness in peer relationships is positively correlated with popularity and good social reputation (Cauce, 1986), self-esteem (McGuire & Weisz, 1982), and psychosocial adjustment (Buhrmester, 1990).
Three Components of Peer Group Membership
Second, among the cognitive, affective, and behavioral aspects of group membership, research has found that the affective nature of a sense of group belonging is the most internally consistent (Hinkle, Taylor, Fox-Cardamone, & Crook, 1989; Pombeni, Kirchler, & Palmonari, 1990). The affective aspect of group belonging includes feelings of being a valued group member, and being proud of one's group. This is similar to the dimension of quality in a friendship as measured by Parker and Asher (1993).
A third approach is to find out how important it is for an adolescent to be a member of a peer group. Not all adolescents are equally concerned about being a member of a group. Feelings of social distress are greatest for those adolescents who strongly desire group membership and do not experience a sense of group belonging. These are the adolescents who are likely to report the most behavior problems (Baumeister & Leary, 1995).
Gender, Peer Group Membership, and Behavior Problems
Gender differences have been consistently observed with respect to internalizing and externalizing behavior problems with girls reporting more internalizing problems, especially depression, and boys reporting more externalizing problems, especially aggression and delinquency (Graber, 2004; Farrington, 2004; Beam et al., 2002; Leadbeater et al., 1999; Nolen-Hoeksema & Girgus, 1994).
Research on rejected youth suggests that social exclusion has far-reaching social consequences. In certain peer environments, the high status or popular groups may actively create conditions of fear and inferiority for certain low-status adolescents (Crick et al., 2001; Kinney, 1993). They use such relational aggression as teasing, obvious snubbing, and gossip to enforce social exclusion (Adler & Adler, 1998). New members of the high status groups are socialized to use these mechanisms to enforce rejection of the low status adolescents. Students who are not yet targeted as outsiders are reluctant to interact with the rejected youth in fear that they will also become targets of group hostility.
It is not uncommon for adolescents to define certain dyadic relationships based on mutual animosity and rejection (Brown, 2004; Abecassis et al., 2002). Certain individuals actively dislike, reject, and avoid others. The peer group comes to recognize these antagonistic relationships and promotes them through exclusion, taking sides, or advancing the negative reputation of one member of the dyad.
Youth who are not well-liked by peers have fewer options for friendships and group membership. Those rejected youth who continue to seek group membership tend to be part of smaller cliques comprised of other rejected youths. In comparison to aggressive youths, who often find a place within a friendship group, withdrawn-rejected youths have the greatest difficulty finding supportive friendships and the greatest likelihood of being victimized by peers (Bagwell, Coie, Terry, & Lochman, 2000; Goldbaum, Craig, Pepler, & Connolly, 2003). This makes it difficult for them to learn and practice effective social skills within peer relationships so that their social standing within the larger peer group could improve. Perhaps this explains why rejected peer status is more stable than other sociometric categories (Brown, 2004, p. 382).
The literature suggests that peer group membership may have both positive and negative associations with behavior problems. Peer group affiliation may reduce the tendency to develop internalizing problems such as anxiety and depression by providing a sense of security and peer acceptance. Peer groups may also have norms against the expression of delinquent, aggressive or risky behavior, which could reduce the expression of externalizing problems. At the same time, some peer affiliations may encourage the expression of externalizing problems, especially antisocial behavior. Some peer groups are characterized by power struggles and hostile interactions or co-rumination that could promote internalizing problems. Although peer group membership may be associated with some behavior problems, it is our contention that lack of a sense of peer group belonging places adolescents at greater risk for both internalizing and externalizing problems than does peer group membership. This is because of the central role of a sense of group belonging for sustaining well-being in the expanding social world of adolescence and the especially unique sensitivity to social exclusion that characterizes this period of life.
- Newman, Barbara M., Lohman, Brenda J., Newman, Philip R., Peer Group Membership And A Sense Of Belonging: Their Relationship To Adolescent Behavior Problems. Adolescence, Summer2007, Vol. 42, Issue 166
Reflection Exercise #10