Peer groups are social clusters distinguished by social status, shared interests of members and the age range of the individuals comprising each cluster. Sports teams, school organizations, clubs, bands, classmates, or business associates are some examples of peer groups. Every peer group maintains a set of rules, hierarchies and standards of behavior and expectations.
Peer Group Identification
Identifying with one or more peer groups is an important aspect of socialization, particularly during stages of childhood and adolescence. A child’s peer group may be friends and contemporaries within the neighborhood, presumably of the same gender and age. Ideally, belonging to one, provides a child with opportunities to take part in productive activities that benefit all members of the group. More importantly, a child is able to form relationships and interact with others without parental or adult supervision.
The Learning Aspects of Peer Group Socialization
Being in the company of peers also enable children to experience conflicts as well as work out ways to solve them through cooperation. Competition may also arise between peers, which members eventually learn to handle in order to stay part of the group..
As a child grows older, he or she becomes more selective of peer groups in which he or she wants to belong. Selection is often based from values and some sets of standard imposed or acquired from his or her family. In some cases, adolescents seek peers that are exactly the opposite of what their family regard as good influences; usually out of curiosity; or in problematic family relationships, as a form of rebellion or call for attention.
The quality of family interaction therefore plays an important role in shaping a child’s ability to identify with the right kind of peer groups. The family serves as the first source of information and examples of behavior that make a growing child choose to socialize with one peer group over another.