Socialization is the learning process where an individual acquires skills to adjust to the group and conforms to the norms of the group. The process of socialization makes a child a social being and he/she learns to play the specific roles assigned by the society. There are a few agencies of socialization which play an important role in raising an individual in the society. The process occurs in two stages, Primary socialization and Secondary socialization. The family gets the child first and becomes the main agent of socialization. In the primary stage, an infant learns the culture, language and basic behavioural patterns that pave the way for learning in later stages of life. During the secondary phase of socialization agencies like schools, peer groups, media etc become crucial. This takes place later in childhood and into maturity. Social interactions in this stage of life play an essential role in learning the values, norms, behavioral patterns, etc that shape the cultural mode of life.
Apart from family, schools and peer groups play a crucial role in socialization. It is the process by which a child can learn to adjust a social setting on his own.
Peer groups and relationships
Peer group is a social group consisting of children of the same age. The members of a particular age-grade usually maintain bonds of friendship and close ties throughout their lives. According to Giddens, in some societies such groups are confined to men. Rituals also take place to mark the transition process from one age-grade to another in case of men. In this social setting, children can create ties and form relationships without strict instructions from anyone. They are free to get assimilated and create a group of their own.
Such groups have psychological and social influence on individuals. It is found that mostly children over the age of four or five spend quite a long time with their friends belonging to the same age group. By sharing the group norms, beliefs and values they learn to become inclusive and find comfort within the group. They become inclusive and tolerant of other perspectives while developing relationships within the group and society at large. The group bonding also affirms a feeling of acceptance to the individuals. The infants playing together in crèches or day care centres recognize the importance of one another because they get accustomed to one another. Their shared relationship becomes more important to one another than their elders or people from different age groups.
Peer groups become significant in the life of adolescents as this is considered as a vulnerable age when the boys and girls often feel dejected by adults.
Adolescents and Peer Groups
During adolescence stage the children and teens become more involved with their friends and peers while decreasing reliance on parents. This is because during such a tender age boys and girls try to be independent and start linking themselves with adults around them. In this stage the teens explore many new things and start to figure out their self-identities. There occurs bodily changes and gender consciousness is nurtured. They are encountered with puberty stage, sexual identity, personality development and other traits related to specific genders. Such changes compel an adolescent to increase his/her social connections and raise a normative code. This normative code can be very rigid at times- relating to dress code, behaviour in the group and any form of deviation can result in shunning or rejection from the group. This also gives rise to the situation of “peer pressure” which sometimes threatens individuality.
Usually the group solidarity is expressed by group conformity, communication, interaction, consciousness, etc. The members interact with one another and exhibit concern.
The term peer pressure is used to explain the situation where a person is pressurized by members of the group to alter his/her attitude in order to meet the interests of the group. In such instances the individuals often find themselves under pressure to conform to the norms of the group. But it is not that peer pressure is always negative, there are positive aspects too.
Understanding the positive and negative aspects of peer pressure:
Negative aspects: Getting addicted to drinking, smoking and taking drugs are the common negative influences exerted by peer groups. One might wish to adopt these habits against his/her will in order to get accepted in the group. Other negativities can be bullying, body shaming and ultimately resulting in lack of confidence. This causes serious mental pressure and a feeling of worthlessness.
Positive aspects: When mostly the negative impacts are stressed, there are multiple examples of positive impacts that can help someone to become a better human being. Pressure from peers related to achievement of goals like excelling in studies, getting good marks in exams, doing well in interviews, etc can motivate a person and create a feeling of consciousness. Peers can give the best advise while decision making and encourage good deeds. This is how they can become the biggest emotional support always showing the right track.
Evaluating both the positive and negative impact of peer groups and peer pressure it can be concluded that it is very important for a person to choose his/her peers and imbibe positive qualities. Friends need not agree on everything but respecting everyone’s opinion without being judgmental is required. Peer relations are significant even beyond childhood and adolescence stage. People belonging to the same ages at work, events and other situations are also capable of influencing attitudes and conduct ultimately creating a comfort zone for one another.