The Role of Peers in the Socialization of Children’s Emotions
With the realization that life is a cycle comprising of growth and development, children grow and move from parental care into early childhood learning institutions which include child care centers, they become exposed to the wider community around them. Additionally children move from preschools into elementary schools, secondary, colleges and later on into work places, their urge to interact with other people increases. As a result they begin to get more enlightened of their environment and the wider society at large which makes them form attachments, friendships and even enemies. With the interactions, children begin to form circles of friendships after which peer groups emerge. Children peers begin to be influential in determining not only the behavioral patterns but also emotional stability. Psychologists support that the peer influence on the development of children has a lasting impact on the emotional state of this children as they grow up. These facts are elucidated by citing empirical research findings extracted from various psychological literatures among them being ‘Peer Rejection in Everyday Life’, ‘Evolutionary Perspectives on Social Development’ and ‘Individuals, Generations and Cultural Communities’. It thus becomes rife that the role of peers includes influencing character, mannerisms, personality and self-esteem which are prerequisites to emotional growth.
Keywords: peer groups, emotion, children, behavior, socialization
The Role of Peers in the Socialization of Children’s Emotions
In psychology, peers refer to people of the same age group. This means that they have many things in common and their interaction at each and every stage of life is likely to shape their social patterns and behaviors at each stage of growth and development. Societies have often associated peer groups as being agencies through which children learning and enculturation occurs. In this context enculturation means being indicted into certain cultural practices of a community in which a person was born or is being brought up. Specifically children tend to be emotional as they pass through various stages of development. Even though the process of emotional development is an interplay of social, economic and cultural factors, research conducted by Barbour and Scully, (2010, p. 97) on ‘peer group influence’ cements the facts that peers also play the role of socializing children’s emotions by helping each other develop the sense of personal acceptance or rejection depending on the kind of perception institutionalized into the children.
In addition to peers who can categorically be grouped as being in the social environment, the immediate surroundings to children have proved to bear some influence on their emotional stability. For example parents, relatives, peers and teachers play a big role in shaping perception of children into being open to experiences, being expressive, passionate and emotive Amato as cited in Clarke-Stewart & Dunn, 2006, p. 180). Furthermore social-economic factors such as status, parent’s occupation and ethnic identity directly impact how children view themselves and this majorly affects how they socialize with their peers. Even as the children develop and become detached from their parents, the peers continuously impact their socialization skills and self-perception. Because of this realization, this paper integrates a large pool of information that supports the pertinent role played by peers in socializing the emotion of children. Essentially this paper elucidates the need for proper socialization among children because it determines their emotional stability later on in their lives.
Life is a cycle comprising of growth and development thus as children grow and move from parental care into early childhood learning institutions which include child care centers, they become exposed to the wider community around them. Even as children move from preschools into elementary schools, secondary, colleges and later on into work places, their urge to interact with other people increases (Bjorklund, & Pellegrini as cited in Smith & Hart, 2010, p. 32). The children begin to become more enlightened of their environment and the wider society at large which makes them form attachments, friendships and even enemies. Interactions are rife once a child is a toddler and this is implicit through their touching of objects around them and crying. At the age of three, children begin to form circles of friendships as a result children peers begin to be influential in determining behavioral patterns. According to psychologists, these peer the following interactions have a lasting impact on the emotional state of this children as they grow up, as the analysis of the following sources has been able to reveal.
Peer Rejection in Everyday Life
This article answers the question of emotional development in children. By using research methods of observation, the researcher acknowledges that the peers interact, their emotional attachment strengthens and so does their behavior tend to become related. According to Asher, Rose & Gabriel, (2001, p. 127) the influence of peer groups on a child’s emotional development are much stronger than that of their parents. This research findings have been refuted by some researchers who claimed that the emotional connection between children and peer groups is more discordant as compared to that exhibited between the children and their parents especially their mothers. Smith & Hart (2010, p. 64) specify that biological evidence supports that there exists a strong bond between children and their parents especially the mothers because of the connection created during pregnancy. The research together with the critical analysis are advantageous in emphasizing that emotional development of the children is more tied to parental guidance than it relates to peer socialization.
Evolutionary Perspectives on Social Development
Even though Smith and Hart, (2010, p. 65) refute to claims made by Asher, Rose and Gabriel, (2001, p. 122), Bjorklund & Pellegrini, (as cited in Smith & Hart, 2010, p. 19) conduct a research aimed at specifying that the emotional attachment between children and their peer groups tends to be stronger when the child is still young. The research findings elaborate that as the children grow they realize that they share much in common with the peers thus they begin to become emotionally dependent on the peers. Research evaluation conducted on 30 students in middle elementary schools supported that the children decision making among children is emotionally dependent on the peers. This is implicit through their constant need for reassurance from other peers and continual approval before they make a decision. Bjorklund & Pellegrini, (2010, p. 21) research illustrates that even in worst case scenarios the 9 year old peers influenced the perception of other children towards their families because children were identified as having a different view on their cultural practices as well as their families. The need for security makes the peers more inquisitive and since most of their interactions are between children of the same age group then peers play a pertinent role in shaping emotional growth.
Individuals, Generations and Cultural Communities
As demonstrated by Rogoff (2003, p. 81), peer groups are like mirrors where children reflect upon their feelings, behavior and emotions regarding their families and their personal development. Rogoff collectively states that according to his research conducted on 150 students within the age groups of five and seven years in 20 elementary schools in North America established that peer groups helped children develop their social skills which in turn helps nurture emotional development (pp. 79-91). This is because out of the 150 children used for the study 102 of them proved to be emotionally attached to their peer groups in terms of sharing ideas and spending time together while they were at school. This findings were essential in establishing that friendships among children at their tender ages are vital in nurturing children into being emotionally stable because the early stages of friendship teaches children on the need for compromise, forgiving, sharing, negotiation and general behavior codes.
Handbook of Peer Interactions, Relationships and Groups: Social, Emotional, and Personality Development in Context
Statistical analysis made by Rubin, Bukowski and Laursen, (2009, p. 21) support Rogoff, (2003, p. 89) findings by stating that peer groups play the role of shaping each other. The only disadvantage with peer influence is that the pressure associated with continuous association between children can either positively or negatively impact the child. For instance children at the age of 10 are often explorative therefore without proper guidance by a responsible adult; the emotional connection between children could lead them into drug abuse or indulgence in other anti-social mannerisms. On the other hand, when guided properly peer groups can be very enriching to the emotional growth of the children. Rubin, Bukowski and Laursen, (2009, p. 24) narrow down their focus into describing the specific role played by peer groups in the socialization of each other and their emotional development. The three authors seem to be in unison with the realization that peer groups form group norms and sanction models which nurture loyalty, socialization and cooperation among its members. Given that the children are the single individuals who collectively form up peer groups then the establishment of group norms is bound to help the children develop leadership skills.
Additionally interviewing teachers at the high school levels helped Rubin, Bukowski and Laursen, (2009, p. 32) to restate that according to many parents and teachers, leadership is an elusive character that needs to be nurtured at early stages of life. Even though psychologists suggest that leadership is not an inborn trait, there is need to tentative nurturing so as to become accustomed to principles underlying good or foiled leadership. Based on these findings from interviews with a sample of teachers, Rubin, Bukowski and Laursen add that peers help children become more aware of their emotional conditions and needs thus peer socialization helps children develop a more personalized understanding of ones emotions and control mechanisms (p. 34). Moreover leadership is an art that requires emotional control and stability thus according to Rubin, Bukowski and Laursen the role of peers in nurturing emotional development towards a leadership perspective is a valid indicator of the pertinent roles played by peers (p. 38).
Handbook of Adolescent Psychology
Narrowing down on the leadership perspective Lerner & Steinberg, (2009, p. 53) researched on the impact that peers have on children. In their book ‘Handbook of adolescent psychology’ Lerner and Steinberg (2009, p. 59) contextually make findings that enables him to comprehensively discuss the influence of adolescent development on emotional development. According to research made by observing characters of adolescent girls and boys of the age groups between 12 and 14, the authors agree that adolescence is quite a demanding stage of growth that needs a lot of parental guidance. It is a common trend among most typical households in America that children become emotionally dissociated with their parents. Apparently cultural believes and the need for self-discovery to some extent makes youths to be emotionally inclined to their peers rather than their guardians or parents. It is during the adolescent stage that peers need more approval and acceptance thus the role of peers in socialization is more dominant at this stage of growth. From observation, it was established that peer groups influence friendship, behavior, knowledge, mannerism in terms of wearing and eating. In the long-run, these findings are beneficial in supporting that the extent of the interaction of peers influences emotional growth. With emotional influence, personality and self-esteem might either grow or be suppressed by aggressive peers.
Socio-Emotional Development in the Toddler Years
In the books ‘Socio-emotional development in the toddler years: Transitions and transformations’ and ‘How children develop social understanding’, Brownell and Kopp (2007, pp. 12-34) and Carpendale and Lewis (2006, pp. 21-45) are instinctually triggered by inquiries aimed at understanding the peer socialization at the verge of disabilities. Despite their collective bargain on the topic regarding the role of peers on the socialization of children emotions, a two year empirical research conducted by both Brownell and Kopp (2007, p. 12-34) on a physically handicapped educational facility in Ghana specifies that the pertinent factors underlying the socialization pattern are dependent on age and the physical condition of the children. Likewise Carpendale and Lewis (2006, p. 27) add that peer socialization is the main reason why many youth programs are tailored to suit the diverse needs of the peers. Courtesy of the research, it was ascertained that there is a general positive trend implied by the increasing awareness and acceptance of people with disabilities among most cultural and ethnic groups across the world.
How Children Develop Social Understanding
A research on children with disabilities in the Illinois State led the authors of this book to allude that the convergence of children with disabilities into normal classroom and educational institutions has helped in fostering the sense of equity among peers. The interaction between children with physical and mental disabilities has been helpful in achieving de-stigmatization and marginalization of disabled children thus boosting their self-esteem which adds up to facilitating emotional control. It was further noted that normal peer groups are healthy for a balanced up bring because children emulate good characters from their peers and by so doing they become better emotionally. In the case of the disabled children, the consistent interaction with peers will help them maintain emotional control even when they are faced by atrocities such as hostile peers thus the role of peers in socialization of children emotions is elucidated in a social context involving peers and students with disabilities. Nonetheless, Carpendale and Lewis (2006, p. 29) express their opinions that blind obedience among peers are destructive to emotional control among children. Group norms formed on the grounds of propagating rebellion encourage children to be socialized into socially and culturally alienated gangs.
Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research, and Public Policy
Interviewing parents on the impact of viewer contents discretion, parental guidance and the installment of firewalls on the internet portals, enabled Anderson, Gentile and Buckley, (2007, p.12) diversify their line of thought into evaluating the role of peers in socialization and emotional development among children. In reality, the idea of parenting is foiled by many factors. Unfortunately technological advancement and the subsequent adaptation of internet, social media, video games and some genres of music have been destructive to the whole perspective dictated by predecessors illustrating the role of peers on socialization. Anderson, Gentile and Buckley (2007, pp. 9-41) in their book Violent video game effects on children and adolescents: Theory, research and public policy,’ a lot of issues are brought into the picture of socialization among children.
First, the issue of cyber bullying which has been destructive to the emotional growth of children especially when they join social networks such as twitter, Facebook, Instagram among others. Among the adults, social networking has been helpful because most adults have control over their emotions on the contrary children and peer groups are still oblivious of the impact of deviant behavior on social media thus they have abused interactions on the internet and social media. Second, cases have been reported of children committing suicide after being cyber bullied by their peers. This means that apart from the positive role played by peers in socializing over social media there is a flip side that can be destructive to self-esteem which add up into destabilizing the emotional balance among children (Cassidy, 2008, p. 6).
Conclusion and Future Direction
In conclusion, the review presents both advantages and disadvantages of the role undertaken by peers in the socialization of children. The advantages accrued from peer group socialization include enlightenment of children which adapts them to different environments and the wider society at large which makes them become interactive. Psychologists further support that peer pressure has lasting impact on the emotional state of this children as they grow up. In the case of the disabled children, the consistent interaction with peers will help them maintain emotional control even when they are faced by atrocities such as hostile peers thus the role of peers in socialization of children emotions is elucidated in a social context involving peers and students with disabilities (Cassidy, 2008, p. 13). Peer groups influence friendship, behavior, knowledge, mannerism in terms of wearing and eating. In the long-run, the extent of the interaction of peers influences emotional growth. With emotional influence, personality and self-esteem might either grow or be suppressed by aggressive peers. Apart from the positive role played by peers in socializing over social media there is a flip side that can be destructive to self-esteem which add up into destabilizing the emotional balance among children. Another additional negative impact is associated exploratory nature of children whereby without proper guidance by a responsible adult; the emotional connection between children could lead them into drug abuse or indulgence in other anti-social mannerisms.
The strengths exhibited in this research and the literature review include the use of qualitative data which gives prove of the instances under which the role of peer socialization has been either positive or negative in shaping emotional growth of children. The other strength with using secondary sources of data for this research has helped in saving resources that could have otherwise been used to facilitate data collection and analysis. The weakness with the collective research is that the topic of psychology and parenting specifically shaping of children behavior and emotions is too wide. As a result there is need for further research on both social-economic and cultural factors that affect the development of children. The future direction of psychological researches should therefore be motivated by the need for empirical data as illustrated by Rogoff (2003, p. 95)
Amato, P. R. (2006). Marital discord, divorce, and children’s well-being. In Clarke-Stewart A. & Dunn, J. (Eds.), Families count (pp. 179 – 202). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Anderson, C. A., Gentile, D. A., & Buckley, K. E. (2007). Violent video game effects on children and adolescents: Theory, research, and public policy. New York: Oxford Press.
Asher, S. R., Rose, A. J. & Gabriel, S. W. (2001). Peer rejection in everyday life. (pp. 105 – 142). New York: Oxford Press.
Barbour, C. N. & Scully, P. A. (2010). Peer Group Influence. New York: Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Bjorklund, D. F., & Pellegrini, A. D. (2010). Evolutionary perspectives on social development. In Smith, P. K. & Hart, C. H. (Eds.) Wiley-Blackwell handbook of childhood social development (2nd Ed.). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
Brownell, C. A., & Kopp, C. B. (Ed.) (2007). Socio-emotional development in the toddler years: Transitions and transformations. New York, NY: Guilford.
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Cassidy, J. (2008). The nature of the child’s ties. In J. Cassidy & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (2nd ed., pp. 3 – 22). New York: Guilford Press.
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Rogoff, B. (2003). Individuals, Generations and Cultural Communities. In B. Rogoff, the Cultural Nature of Human Development (pp. 77-101). New York: Oxford University Press.
Rubin, K. H., Bukowski, W. M., & Laursen, B. (Eds.) (2009). Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups. Social, emotional, and personality development in context. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Smith, P. K & Hart, C. H. (Eds.) (2010). Wiley-Blackwell handbook of childhood social development (2nd Ed.). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
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