Peer Power: Preadolescent Culture and Identity

Peer Power: Preadolescent Culture and Identity

Peer Power: Preadolescent Culture and Identity

Peer Power: Preadolescent Culture and Identity

Synopsis

"Peer Power explodes existing myths about children's friendships, power, and popularity, and the gender chasm between elementary school boys and girls. Based on eight years of intensive insider participant observation in their own children's community, the authors discuss the vital components in the lives of preadolescents: popularity, friendships, cliques, social status, social isolation, loyalty, bullying, boy-girl relationships, and afterschool activities. They describe how friendships shift and change, how children are drawn into groups and excluded from them, how clique leaders maintain their power and popularity, and how the individuals' social experiences and feelings about themselves differ from the top of the pecking order to the bottom. The Adlers focus their attention on the peer culture of the children themselves and the way this culture extracts and modified elements from adult culture. Children's peer culture, as it is nourished in those spaces where grownups cannot penetrate, stands between individual children and the larger adult society. As such, it is a mediator and shaper, influencing the way children collectively interpret their surroundings and deal with the common problems they face. The Adlers explore some of the patterns that develop in this social space, noting both the differences in the gendered cultures of boys and girls and their overlap into afterschool activities, role behavior, romantic inclinations, and social stratification. Peer culture contains the informal social mechanisms through which children create their social order, determine their place and identity, and develop positive and negative feelings about themselves." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Mark and Larry were friends; they had been ever since first grade when Larry moved into the neighborhood. Mark considered Larry his best friend; to Larry, Mark was one of his best friends. Larry was the leader of their little clique, a subgroup of the larger popular boys' group. Brad was the leader of this larger clique and dominated its decision making, trend setting, and behavior. He and Larry had been uneasy friends for years, skirmishing over power and loyalty within the group. The school had carefully avoided placing them in the same homeroom for many years. In fifth grade, however, Brad, Mark, and Larry found themselves in the same class, along with several other key players in the popular crowd. As expected, the new placement created tension within the group. During one fight, Brad ostracized Larry and forced him out of the group. Mark and Rick (Larry's other best friend) then rejected the group to support Larry. The next week brought a new shift in group dynamics, and Larry and his cohort were readmitted.

This split in the group led Brad to adopt a new strategy. Instead of combating Larry, he attempted to co-opt him, winning his submission and loyalty by acquiring his friendship. To forge this bond, he had to eliminate the competition. Brad went to Larry and talked to him about Mark, attempting to elicit negative comments. He then carried these negative remarks to Mark, asking what Mark thought of them and how he felt about Larry. Brad went back and forth between the two boys, attempting to alienate them from each other by building their mutual uncertainty and resentment. At first they would not offer bad feelings, but after hearing a steady stream of negative comments about themselves, they started to believe the tales and criticized each other. They did not approach each other, feeling awkward and not knowing what to say. While . . .

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