The Influence Of Peers On Adolescent Development

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The influence of peers on adolescent development has been well documented in research. Adolescence is documented as a period of development in which peers begin to have a greater influence than parents (Schwinn & Schinke, 2014). Increased levels of peer interactions, with a decrease in parental interactions, are observed during adolescence. Increases in peer interactions can result in greater orientation toward peer conformity and acceptance, and an increased importance of close friendships (Telzer et. al, 2015). Adolescence is also marked by a heightened involvement in risky behaviors (underage drinking, illegal drug use, risky sexual behaviors). The presence of peers leads to more engagement in risky behaviors by adolescents. Numerous studies have shown that adolescents take more risks when in the presence of peers (Smith, Chein, & Steinberg, 2014).
Different theories posit how peers influence each other to engage in risky behaviors during adolescence. According to the Social Learning Theory, adolescents conform to behaviors they believe will earn them a high level of status among their peers (Balsa, Homer, French, & Norton, 2010). Through Social Learning, adolescents may engage in risky behaviors they have experienced or observed to be socially rewarding (Kretsch & Harden, 2014). Adolescents may receive reinforcement from their peers and continue to talk about or engage in risky behaviors as a result. Peer influence and peer selection have both been studied in risk
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