Do people of the same age influence behavior

The peer group

Humans are exposed to a variety of influences in the course of their physical, psychological and social development. The family is of particular importance. Like no other socialization authority, it influences living conditions and thus attitudes and behavior.

Youth is the phase of life between childhood and adulthood. In this phase there are major changes and stresses, especially in the psychological area (individuation, life plan development, value system development). The young person is looking for his identity, which of course never ends in life. The search for identity in puberty is of great importance due to the transition between being “foreign” by the parents and self-responsibility as an adult.

In the phase of Identity finding the young person deals with occupational and gender roles, with the separation from the parental home and with the values ​​that prevail in society. Identity is found on four levels:

  1. Reflexive (Production of the first self-image): Correction or confirmation through contact with others
  2. Optative (Creation of wishes about oneself): Now people already know where they feel they belong. Role models play an important role.
  3. Acceptable (The focus is on acceptance of oneself): The recognition of personal weaknesses and strengths is easier, especially for people who are accepted by their environment. The job plays an important role here, as it corresponds to a task in society (problem of youth unemployment).
  4. Social (Identity formation in a group): “The adolescent who gradually begins to detach himself from the parental home in order to build a life according to new goals is looking for new bonds that he can find in the group of his peers. The role models, models and concepts of values ​​that this group offers him shape and shape him. "(Heinelt 1982, p. 107). Possible problem: group pressure

The influence of friends of the same age increases in late childhood, puberty and adolescence. These Peer groups (Youth groups, cliques, gangs) influence the behavior of children and young people and thus make an important contribution to the development of personality and identity (cf. Oerter & Montada 1995, p. 369).

Identifiers of peer groups

    • Peers
    • Proximity
    • Similar interests
    • Friendship (doesn't have to be!)
    • Surface structure for demonstrative demarcation from the adult world
    • Inner structure for social contact ability (mostly dominance hierarchy)
    • Central importance especially in school age

Organization of peer groups

Study by Savin-Williams (1987) on dominance and altruism in the peer group:

Duration: 5 weeks, in leisure camps, six male and four female groups of 4-6 people aged 12-17 each
Results: The most dominant group members (the group leaders / alphas) ​​also showed the most pronounced prosocial behavior. The characteristics of the leaders: more physically developed, taller and heavier, a little older than the others. The group members described them as physically attractive, intelligent, and sporty and athletic; classified by the supervisors as constructive and integrating people.
Conclusions from Savin-William: Since the dominance hierarchy has a stabilizing and stress-reducing function in the group, the potential for conflict and stress is reduced by using this organizational structure. (analogous to human evolution)

Functions of peer groups

Physically: Comparison of physical developments (à emotional problems and behavior problems)


    • Identity finding (= central problem of adolescence): offers opportunities for identification and self-expression (cf. Oerter & Montada 1995, p. 370)
    • Sense of belonging to group (s)
    • Orientation, stabilization and security (in behavior and status)
    • Compensation for feelings of loneliness
    • Development of a realistic self-image through reflection
    • Peer acceptance usually greater than self acceptance (gives security)


    • Peer contacts (= main characteristic of adolescence)
    • Support function of friendship (especially in stressful situations) à social security
    • Opportunity to experiment with new roles and new social behaviors - especially in relation to authority, hierarchy, gender roles
    • Contacting the opposite sex (see Chapter 3)
    • Support when moving away from the parental home (effect by the majority: "Everyone else is allowed too!")
    • Practice of new forms of authority or hierarchy
    • Dealing with the conventional structures of society and questioning authorities

Communication within the peer group

  • Verbal communication: The group develops its own jargon (linguistic style):
    • short, succinct and concise, sometimes even radically simplistic
    • Differentiation from the language style of adults
    • promotes a feeling of togetherness
  • Non-verbal communication: The group activities focus on integral objects (e.g. sports, music, computers, ...). In addition, the group develops so-called homologous objects (clothing, hairstyle) - in line with the group's "theme".

Peer group provides security

Socialization influences both the risk behavior and the safety or prevention behavior of children and adolescents and shaped. The effects of individual socializing factors were presented in the lecture by Maria Limbourg.

Many risky behaviors typical of young people (tests of courage, drug use, driving fast or under the influence of alcohol) are influenced by the clique or group. The risky model behavior of the peers is often imitated by the young people because the conformity with peer norms is very pronounced during this time. The young people are under strong peer pressure. You do everything to belong to a group - therefore considerable risks are also accepted. Group-compliant risky behaviors often represent a way for the young people to be accepted by the respective reference group and to build up an identity within the young people's subculture (cf. Limbourg, 1998).

Not all adolescents are equally influenced by their peer group with regard to risk behavior. And not all peer groups display such risky behaviors. There are so-called "problem kids" where risky behavior becomes "problem behavior". This type of problem behavior (e.g. drunk driving a moped) occurs above all if it is approved in the peer group, if the young person knows many peer models with the same problem behavior and if he is more strongly influenced by the peers than is under parental control. Male adolescents are much more frequently represented in this area than girls. In addition to gender, socio-economic status, school education and vocational training also play an important role. Young people from special schools or secondary schools have accidents far more often than secondary school students and high school students in so-called “tests of courage” such as B. S-Bahn surfing, car surfing, crossing the motorway in front of the approaching vehicles, ...

On the basis of these research findings, the prevention approaches in adolescence should be aimed at adolescents in their social context (cf. Limbourg, 1998). This means that youth groups such as football fans, school classes, youth clubs, apprentices from a certain company, visitors to a disco, etc. must be addressed as a whole. Groups with an increased security risk (risk or problem groups) are particularly important. In addition, the young people themselves should be much more involved in accident prevention than before.

Peer education

Why Peer Education?

For some years now, youth researchers have observed increasing "feelings of demoralization and powerlessness" among young people. More and more young people have the feeling that they themselves have no influence on political and social processes and are not very optimistic about their future prospects. That is why there is a demand to involve them more strongly than before in decision-making processes, to promote participatory forms of work in youth work and to strengthen the influence of young people. Peer education approaches appear to be a sensible alternative to previous prevention approaches, especially in prevention work, as they are "participatory" and open up opportunities for young people to help shape projects and actively influence goals and forms of work.

How does peer education work?

In the past five years, interest in peer approaches has also increased significantly in Europe. Efforts are currently being made not only at national level but also at EU level to qualify peer education programs and to network them with one another (EUROPEER). Some see these activities as the beginnings of a (new) "peer education movement".

Peer education approaches assume that specifically young people are more likely to take up the content of health promotion and lifestyle in their knowledge and behavior repertoire if these are taught to them by their peers. In peer education, specially trained young people (peers) are often used to inform a group (e.g. school class, visitors to a youth recreational facility, disco visitors, etc.) about a topic and to influence their attitudes and behavior. Peer education approaches rely on a multiplier effect that comes from the peers. Preferred areas of application have been smoking prevention, drug prevention, sexual and contraceptive behavior and AIDS prevention.


  1. Strengthen student responsibility
  2. Assistance in setting up your own system of values ​​and standards
  3. Previous conflict detection and de-escalation
  4. Establish conflict management strategies
  5. Reduce violence
  6. Improve class / school climate

Opportunities from peer approaches

The same language codes are used in peer relationships. This enables a more direct interaction with one another than between adolescents and adults. It is assumed that peers are more motivated than adults to deal with one another to compensate for differences between themselves and others. During joint actions, implicit learning takes place, which particularly contributes to the acquisition of extra-functional qualifications. In this way, problem-solving skills and thinking strategies are adopted from one another; the peer group forces mutual compromise to be reached. Accordingly, it is assumed that peer lessons and peer tutorials are particularly suitable for strengthening the motivation of underperforming students, for increasing self-esteem and promoting creative problem-solving strategies, and for promoting constructive social behavior.

Development prospects

There is still a lack of controlled studies that also provide information on the long-term effects of peer approaches. A peer education project on "Love Sexuality and Pregnancy Contraception", funded by the Federal Center for Health Education and realized in Berlin, has a model function here, as in a quasi-experimental accompanying process and longitudinal, summative evaluation of opportunities, effects and benefits of peers -Education programs in the prevention area could be demonstrated (cf. Kleiber and Appel, 1998). It is now necessary to examine the question of the accessibility of disadvantaged target groups and the transferability of the peer approach to new settings. If it is also possible in the EU to promote practice teams who ensure maximum transparency of the processes and actively demand accompanying research and use this for self-reflection and as an instrument in dealing with outsiders, peer education can be successfully further developed. Peer approaches have good chances if they are not only partially established in times of economic crises, but also in the context of participatory, empowerment-oriented youth work, of which every democratic state can be proud.

The peer group in the social web

The Participation world of the social web has become an important action space for young people, and it potentially also enables participation, whereby in communicative and productive media action the media world becomes a space of action for world appropriation and personal development, whereby its importance for the central work in youth on an identity to be developed is growing. Based on preferred media offers and activities as well as their specific interests, young people today act across media and make use of the confluence of the media worlds, with media communication spaces currently playing the main role. In addition to exchanging information on areas of interest on relevant websites, the social web plays an important role and here again the organization, maintenance and expansion of the relationship life. Belonging to one or more communities is of almost existential importance for many young people, that friendship and love relationships are established or continued in these spaces. The group of peers is equally present in real and media spaces and collective activities are lived out here and there and lead to new forms of socialization. The social web is a communicative meeting and action space for young people, in which emotional worlds, everyday problems, values ​​and life goals are negotiated, partly in continuation, partly in expansion of real communication structures, whereby media and everyday activities flow into one another (Theunert, 2011).

Used literature

Anastasiou, K., March, A., Sury, P., (2002). Cell phone ownership and the social integration of young people. Online on the Internet: WWW: (2002-10-18)

Großegger, B. (2005). Publication series youth policy. Online on the Internet: (07-11-04).

Limbourg, Maria (1998). The importance of family and friends for safety and danger in childhood and adolescence. Online on the Internet: WWW: (2002-10-17)

Kleiber, Dieter (1999). Empowerment and participation. Opportunities of peer education in prevention work. Online in the Internet: (2002-10-17)

Kraak, B. (1997). Bullying, torturing classmates. Psychology in Education and Teaching, 44, 71-77

Kruse, J. (2000). Upbringing style and child development: reciprocal processes in the longitudinal section. In S. Walper & R. Pekrun (eds.), Family and Development (pp. 1-8). Göttingen: Hogrefe.

Mietzel, G. (2002). Paths to developmental psychology. Beltz publishing group: Weinheim.

Oerter, R. & Dreher, E. (2002). Adolescence. In R. Oerter & L. Montada (Eds.), Developmental Psychology (pp. 258-318) Weinheim: Beltz.

Preiser, S. (1994). Youth and Politics. Adaptation - participation - extremism. In R. Oerter & L. Montada (eds.), Developmental Psychology (pp. 874-884) Weinheim: Beltz.

Reinders, H. (2004). Friendships in the youth holder. Online on the Internet: (07-11-01).

Schneewind, K. (2002). Family development. In R. Oerter & L. Montada (Eds.), Developmental Psychology (pp. 105-127) Weinheim: Beltz.

Schneewind, K. (1998). Family development. In R. Oerter & L. Montada (eds.), Developmental Psychology (pp. 129-170) Weinheim: Beltz.

Silbereisen, R. & Ahnert, L. (2000). Social cognition: developing social knowledge and understanding. In R. Oerter & L. Montada (Eds.), Developmental Psychology (pp. 509-682) Weinheim: Beltz.

Stangl W. (2007). Development tasks in adolescence: Online on the Internet: (07-11-01).

Theunert, Helga (2011). Current challenges for media education. APuZ 3.

Uhlendorff, H. (1996). Parental social networks in their effect on the friendship relationships of the children. Psychology in Education and Teaching, 43, 127-140.

Zimmermann, P., Gliwitzky, J., Becker-Stoll, F. (1996). Bonding and friendship relationships in adolescence. Psychology in Education and Teaching, 43, 141-154

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