Children develop from childhood to adulthood through development stages. Just like a child is taught on how to walk, then they learn to run, he/she learns other things mainly from other sources other than the parents. Human development can be defined as the behavioral changes which occur in an individual from birth till death. It also helps us to understand how individuals grow and change during their lifetime.
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In day to day activities, human beings interact with each other as well as other physical things. They also perform different activities that enable them survive comfortably. In these interactions, people tend to hold firmly onto things that give them a kind of satisfaction. What this means is that people will tend to associate themselves with things that they like though they may not necessarily be right according to societal norms. But it also depends on the kind of socialization associated with these people since childhood.
Since human development is closely tied to activities that may enhance physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and social growth in human beings, human beings tend to like and dislike certain activities. When one is considered to be a minor, the parents have the sole responsibility of taking care of them.
On the other hand, children need to understand that they are under the authority of the parents. In most cases, parents take their roles responsibly by teaching their children on what they believe is right for them. The parents also make sure that they get their basic needs and sometimes provide the luxuries whenever they are able to do so.
It is the dream and hope of every parent and the society at large that children grow up to be responsible and law abiding citizens of their country. However, it does not always end up as anticipated. Some are met by situations like the demise of their parents at a tender age while others succumb to pressure and influence from peers. The environments in which people grow also make them start doing things that they may have not been taught by the parents or the school.
This paper is going to support the assumption that peers greatly influence the process of development. This is assumption has been debated by psychologists in trying to understand the behavior of teenagers. Teenagers are more likely to be influenced by their peers. Studies have shown that teenagers defy parental guidelines and engage in activities that they feel can be approved by peers.
Gupte (2008) indicates that, “the need for acceptance, approval, and belonging is vital during the teen years”. Therefore, there are a number of things that make peers more important during development. The answer to this assumption is positive because of a number of reasons.
During teenage years, there is a shift from parental influence with peers taking on greater importance. Unlike the past days when children used to report every incidence to the parents, they solve most of the issues themselves nowadays. As more sensitive issues come into their lives and the desire for freedom cropping in, teenagers tend to associate much with their peers. The following are the reasons why it is true that peers are more important than parents in development at this stage.
Firstly, because of age, parents are seen to be old fashioned hence, what they say may not make a lot of sense to the teenagers. Most teenagers tend to think that their parents lived in a different generation; therefore, they consider what they are told out dated.
For instance, the mode of dressing may not be approved by parents because they think they expose their children to early sex ordeals. On the other hand, teenagers think that everything that is new is to be prioritized. The desire to dress like the people they watch on television is their taste. Looking at it in terms of the peers, it is definitely the fact they will approve of that kind of dressing because they reason in a similar manner.
Around this developmental stage, the peers take the lion’s share in terms of behavioral development because the peers approve of everything that parents may not necessarily approve. The euphoria of making personal decisions tell the teenager to do what they feel is good in most cases without considering the consequences. This in itself shows a sense of old fashion in the parents. In fact they say, “this is our time and that was their time, things are done differently now”.
The feeling of old fashioned parenting rules, is a major issue that makes teenagers tend to imagine that their peers may be having the right information. With the improvement of information and communication technology, peers that have tech savvy gadgets may use this to educate others positively or negatively. Although, the other peers don’t have these gadgets, the influence may be great.
Some parents may be resisting these kinds of changes. Like some parents may still be using the old school analog land line phones instead of using the tech savvy mobile phones. This in itself is a clear indication that their children may tend to disassociate themselves from some decisions that they make.
There may be so many other developments that the parents may not be aware of. For instance, if the ‘old fashioned parents’ during their childhood days used to spend time in church, they will definitely advice their children to follow similar steps. But now there are raving places and a lot of new and old secular music that is readily available online that the youth listen to. For real, the parents are ‘old fashioned’.
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The parents may be right in the decisions they make for their children though they might be insensitive at times. Trollope (1999) wrote, “But she was afraid of her father and mother. Lady Pomona was distressingly old fashioned, and had so often spoken with horror even of the approach of a Jew, and had been so loud in denouncing iniquity”. Clearly this demonstrates why and how they may be seen as old fashioned and consequently, let peers take control of the growing young minds.
Secondly, there is the fact that teenagers are regarded as grownups as well as children at the same time. This comes up when a child does babyish activities and since he/she is old enough, they are told to stop doing them because they are adults. At a later instance he/she is restricted from activities like indulging in alcohol or sex because they are not old enough to do them because they are children.
This leaves them in a field of confusion hence, the need to look for a more appealing source of information. In this situation, the peer comes in handy. The peer will concur with the other teenagers’ way of thinking. Here again, the peer gains more weight as compared to the parent. Again the conclusion is that the peer is more preferred than the parent at this stage.
Thirdly, as people grow towards adulthood, human beings learn to make personal decisions that influence their lives. For instance, if a man wants to buy a car, the decision on which he is to buy the car entirely depends on the overall cost of the car, peer pressure and use requirements.
Here, the parent may not even be consulted but the peers influence the decision greatly. Most of the time peers spent time with friends rather than parents. Again, the youth may be working and leaving far away from the parents hence, the parents will just get the news later on. Clearly, peers get greater control of what their friends are doing than the parents could do whether they are close or far.
In addition, when one starts earning his own money, the parenting concept is no longer there. In most cases when people join the working community, they start working on how to get their freedom in decision making about their lives. Most of them first move out to their own apartment and start living there with their own rules.
In this situation, the peer is the closest person who offers a helping hand or even ideas. Some move close to each other by getting apartments in the same neighborhood. Other common activities may now follow hence most decisions made are through a consultation between the peers. Most of the time is spent with close friends and not the parents hence, peers are more important than the parents.
Identifying with age mates is another reason why peers are more important than parents. Sometimes, one feels comfortable discussing issues with a peer than somebody else because he/she believes that the person has also passed through similar issues. It is more comfortable to discuss a problem with somebody who has gone through a similar problem.
If a twenty year old is put together with first graders, as a first grader he/she won’t enjoy the experience. Some things may not be too interesting to them. Again the stigma that may be put on him or her will be too much to bear. Naturally speaking, it is proper to do activities with your age mates or peers. With this assumption in mind, it is proper to conclude that peers are more important than parents.
Research done indicates that behavior is mainly molded by peer. Harris state that “children would develop into the same sort of adults if we left their lives outside the home unchanged and left them in their schools and neighborhoods, but switched all the parents around”, (Harris, 1998).
In fact, immigrant children acquire a new language and new cultural traditions from peers. This clearly indicates that peers are more important in development than parents. In the life of a human being, most of his/her time is spent with peers and not the parents.
This is because after three years of childhood, the child may be taken to a child care center as the parents go to work. The whole of school and college life is also spent with peers. After this period, the adult goes out of the family house to start a new life which is mainly influenced by peers and nature. It is again clear that the life and development of a person socially and emotionally is based on the peers and not the parents hence, the peers are more important than the parents.
Another point is the kind of parenting style in the house which may push the children away from the house. An example is the authoritarian parent who requires that they are final in what they tell their children. The parents speak and that must be accepted as truth. This kind of parenting is characterized by, “enforcement methods through coercion … authoritarian parents do not communicate well with children … and they do not show respect to the children” (Rathus, 2010).
Clearly, the parents know it all and since communication is limited to the extent that the children may be affected psychologically. Research done shows a rather uncouth behavior exhibited by children who were under authoritarian kind of parenting. This kind of behavior may be influenced by the peers who give freedom of what each one of them does. Again the parent may be on the losing end while the peer carries the day.
Monotony and control of what children do at home may be a pushing away factor from the parents. No matter how much these parental controls may be helpful in the social and economic development of the children, they may be seen as a kind of punishment. At teenage time, one may not understand why they should reduce the amount of time spent on watching television.
Again they may not understand why they should get a good high school diploma. The parents may be forced to use rather strict measures like switching off the television and other entertainment facilities within the house. Because of this, children tend to look for alternatives which are mainly provided by peers.
The reason for monotony is that parents do provide standard procedures to be followed in the house which may be repeated from time to time. These procedures or even entertainment facilities may sometimes be limited hence the need to use them again and again. This causes monotony in the house. Consequently, they desire to look for alternatives like borrowing a movie. In this sense, the parent becomes less important than the peer.
Sometimes the peer pressure may be a positive thing that helps people to grow. Parents at one time or the other may encourage the youth to emulate the behavior of the peers. They could tell them the old cliché, “walk with a thief become a thief or walk with a good person and you become a good person”.
At times, they would wonder why you can’t perform in school like your peers. The message sent to you at this point is clear, that sometimes the peers are right and you should follow their footsteps. The child would then consider it in a manner that makes the parent less important because the parent did not tell him/her to be like them (Shaffer, 2008).
The desire to have friends and keep them for long is another factor that makes peers more important. They say that variability increases chances of survival. The reason for this is that, if a country for instance can be able to provide its citizen with varied products from its own resources, then the country may be economically independent.
But naturally, each region of the world produces different products thus enhancing international trade so that there is exchange of goods and services hence increasing dependence and the chances of survival are increased.
This can also be reflected on the food chains associated with ecology. In growth and development, people need each other for various reasons. Therefore, a child could have a number of peers but only has two parents hence, the peers become more important because they are more sufficient in what they provide (Bornstein, 1991).
In conclusion, peers form a very important part of the growth of human beings. In the course of human development stages, peers are very important because they are required for different reasons. Peers are influential because of various reasons varying from the desire for friendship, source of information, networking group, fun making group to criminal activity groups.
Overall, peers must be chosen wisely. For one can never choose parents but has total control of who his/her friends are and for what reasons to have them. Yes, the peers are more important in human growth and development but the parents have more responsibility them. Children should transform into adults through the careful hands of the parents and the reasonable influence from the peers.
Bornstein, M. (1991). Cultural Approaches to Parenting. London: Lawrence Erlbaum
Gupte, S. (2008). Recent Advances in Pediatrics. New Delhi: Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers.
Rathus, S. (2010). Childhood and Adolescence: Voyages in Development. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Shaffer, D. (2008). Social and Personality Development. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Trollope, A. (1999). The Way We Live Now. London: Oxford University Press.