Peer Groups and Cliques
Unless an anchorite, individuals form various relationships and friendships with those sharing common interests, views, and backgrounds. Children, adolescents, and adults form peer groups, i.e., smaller clusters of similarly aged friends sharing the above traits. Groups are of varied sizes and permanence; for example, students banding together to support a candidate in a school election will likely disband after voting, while cheerleading squad members may form strong friendships and remain viable for years.
Groups, specifically those composed of peers, are especially important to children and adolescents, as during maturation they increasingly seek distance and difference from family by forming friendships with those their age sharing various interests and similarities. Peer groups offer youth opportunities to develop various social skills necessary to personal and professional interactions as well as those for forming romantic relationships and additional friendships with individuals of varying ages. They also allow experimentation with new roles and interactions, such as directing a group task or assisting individuals of varying ages.
Educationally, Lev Zygotsky asserts that learners of all ages, with assistance from educators and peers, will achieve far more with others than alone; likewise, individuals gain knowledge from personal interpretations and perceptions of their environment and through social interactions with peers and adults. (1) Essentially, peer groups assist in developing or refining individual self-confidence and sense of self, i.e., personal identity, and they also mimic adult relationships and interactions with others in societal, educational, family, and work settings. (2)
Naturally, as children and adolescents age and social interactions increase friendships and groups expand, divide, and separate to include more members of varying ages and more groups, as groupings will form among coworkers, community volunteers, or religious congregations. Zygotsky also declares individuals of all ages socialize one another by responding, both positively and negatively, to others' actions. (3) For example, Iannaccone states that educators, regardless of previous training and experience, upon employment will adopt their colleagues' teaching methodologies, management styles, and ways of interacting with students. (4) Such mimicking stems from group influence and presumably affects, in varying degrees, other professional and personal clusters.
Peer groups are natural and beneficial, but this appears to be an inclusive term that should be separated as although the terms "peer groups" and "cliques" are used interchangeably, the two are not the same. A smaller group that splinters from a peer group and forms a separate smaller cluster for power and/or popularity purposes is more precisely termed a clique. For example, a middle school's gymnastic team is a peer group, but if several members band together within it for the exclusion of other members, it is a clique. Essentially, any discrete group with fifty percent or more of its members using their composition to elevate themselves and/or denigrate others may be defined as a clique.
Cliques and Status
Cliques resemble peer groups by being natural formations, but unlike them provide largely negative experiences for members and non-members. All cliques attain and maintain social domination through their power, authority, and coercion of those subordinate with such power held by its most popular members and the highest status cliques predominant. Cliques define what is acceptable regarding views, behaviors, and attitudes, resulting in providing informal social control for both those inside and outside the group by dictating dress, friendships, activities, and more.
They also assert dominance and exclusion to those inside and outside of their group, which such power held by its most popular members. …