Growing Up in America: The Power of Race in the Lives of Teens

By Brad Christerson; Korie L. Edwards et al. | Go to book overview

3 PEERS
Influencing Attitudes, social Acceptance,
and personal relationships

I: What do you think are some of the biggest problems or pres-
sures facing teenagers today in general?

R: Probably I'd have to say, the way they look….. the big pres-
sure on the way you look and succeeding, I guess, making good
grades, what you're going to become in your career
.

—Sarah Travis, age 16, white

While the family continues to be the most researched aspect of child socialization, it is well recognized among researchers, parents, educators, and anyone else that comes into frequent contact with teens that peers become important as a socializing agent during adolescence.1 Early work by family researchers tended to pit parental and peer influence against each other, in attempts to discern which reference group has a more powerful influence on teens.2 The currently wide consensus among family researchers, however, is that parents continue to influence teens most powerfully even as the influence of peers increases.3

Sociologists, in contrast, have focused their attention on specific outcomes related to peer relationships, such as delinquency, sexuality, or academic achievement,4 and conclude that peer networks exert a powerful influence in these areas. As with research on families, most studies that look at the influence of peers have focused on white middle-class youth.5 Strikingly few studies on the friendship patterns of adolescents of color have been conducted. This chapter explores racial and ethnic differences in peer relationships and their effect on specific outcomes in the lives of teens.

As Youniss and Smollar note,6 peer relationships are more accepting and present-oriented than the more hierarchical and future-oriented parent-child relationship. Importantly, this allows higher levels of trust and self-disclosure among peers, making peer relationships an important source of social accep-

-41-

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Growing Up in America: The Power of Race in the Lives of Teens
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: Family Learning Authority, Autonomy, and Responsibility 12
  • 3: Peers Influencing Attitudes, Social Acceptance, and Personal Relationships 41
  • 4: School Motivating Achievement, Aspirations, and Opportunity 71
  • 5: Religion Developing Beliefs, Experiences, and Practices 110
  • 6: Conclusion 145
  • Appendixes 163
  • Appendix A - Methodology 165
  • Appendix B - Frequencies of Racial/Ethnic Groups 167
  • Appendix C 168
  • Reference Matter 179
  • Notes 181
  • References 187
  • Index 197
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