Interpersonal Rejection Experiences and Shame as Predictors of Susceptibility to Peer Pressure among Korean Children

Article excerpt

We examined the relationships among parental and peer rejection, shame, and susceptibility to peer pressure during late childhood. A sample of 610 boys and 575 girls from Korea filled out questionnaires and nominated 3 classmates to measure peer rejection. The results showed that shame is the strongest predictor of susceptibility to peer pressure, and shame provided a pathway by which interpersonal rejection was related to susceptibility to peer pressure. The findings also highlighted the moderating effect of gender with regard to susceptibility to peer pressure. The implications of the effect of interpersonal rejection relationships and shame are discussed in relation to the internal working model perspective.

Keywords: parental rejection, peer rejection, shame, susceptibility to peer pressure, childhood.

Peer pressure is a feeling or perception of being forced or coerced by peers to do positive or negative things together (Barkin, Smith, & DuRant, 2002). According to reference group theory and its corresponding socialization component, for children, peer groups act as reference groups within which children orient themselves, adopting the norms and values of the reference groups as criteria for their behaviors. Therefore, children who are under peer pressure or susceptible to peer pressure tend to conform to peer groups' decisions and/or behaviors. Researchers have studied peer pressure as a cause of both children's misbehaviors and their positive developmental outcomes, in relation to topics such as alcohol use (Crawford & Novak, 2007), delinquency (Santor, Messervey, & Kusumakar, 2000), and academic achievement (Atkinson, 2009; Casella, 1989).

Although most researchers have viewed peer pressure as a cause of developmental outcomes and focused on examining the results of peer pressure, relatively few have examined the causes of peer pressure. What makes children susceptible to peer pressure? According to Lashbrook (2000), who stated that there is a need for research on the emotional dimension and motivational components of peer pressure, most reference group and socialization models have cognitive and behavioral emphases and omit the emotional dimension. Within this perspective, some researchers (Lashbrook, 2000; Retzinger, 1995; Scheff, 1990) have turned their focus to socioemotional factors in order to explore the causes of peer pressure.

In addition, despite the growing body of work on peer pressure, the focus in most studies has been restricted to adolescents. Thus, little is known about susceptibility to peer pressure in late childhood and preadolescence. However, because children in later childhood now experience earlier maturity, such as puberty and teenage culture, childhood is another period in which peer influence increases through time spent with peers and peer pressure.

A Model of Child Susceptibility to Peer Pressure

In this study, susceptibility to peer pressure is conceptualized as the outcome of interpersonal rejection and shame. Theoretical perspectives on the internal working model and defense mechanism are used. As can be seen in Figure 1, the conceptual framework depicts susceptibility to peer pressure as being caused by shame as a weak internal self (that is a negative part of the self, such as negative appraisal of the self), which is a response to interpersonal rejection. This process can also be explained by the defense mechanism working against interpersonal rejection.

Shame and Interpersonal Rejection as Predictors of Peer Pressure

Considering that conforming to peer norms and opinions refers to some aspect of the weak self or yielding self-assertion, it is necessary to explore the selfhood of children who are susceptible to peer pressure. Various aspects of the self develop partly based on the process of forming the internal working model, that stems from interpersonal relationships. Positive self-perception, which may act as an internal working model, develops through the experience of an accepting, warm, and responsive interpersonal relationship. …


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