Influence of Friends on One Another

Friends can have negative effects on children if they engage in problematic behaviors. For example, aggressive children tend to have aggressive friends. Similarly, adolescents who smoke or abuse alcohol or drugs tend to have friends who do so. However, because children tend to chose friends who are similar to themselves in behaviors, attitudes, and identities, it is difficult to determine whether friends actually affect one another's behavior or if children simply seek out peers who think, act, and feel as they do. Some research suggests that friends do influence one another's behavior, at least to some degree or for some people. For example, some investigators have

As children grow older, their conception of friendship may change. Younger children tend to view friends in terms of rewards and costs; older children begin to look at friends using emotional terms, such as loyalty and trust. (O'Brien Productions/Corbis)

found that peer contact predicts problem behavior primarily among children who have a history of problem behavior.

Friends likely influence children and adolescents in positive as well as negative ways. Friends influence academic achievement and prosocial behaviors. Particularly during adolescence, individuals are influenced by friends because they admire their peers and respect the opinions of their friends, not typically because of coercive pressures. Teens are most influenced by peers in middle adolescence, compared to early and late adolescence.

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