The relationships between children are traditionally characterized as extremely complicated. At the same time, there is a widely spread belief that as children grow older their relationships grow more and more complicated. In actuality, such a statement is rather subjective and is based on the widely recognized belief that preadolescent children are totally subordinated to their parents and other significant adults while the role of peers is relatively insignificant. However, the recent researches, including the study conducted by Patti and Peter Adler, the relationship between preadolescent peers may be quite complicated and, in spite of the dependence of children on their adult, their peer groups are very meaningful and significant for children. In this respect, it is quite noteworthy to discuss clique stratification and dynamics which substantially reveal the essence of relationships between preadolescent children as well as popularity which is a very important issue even for children at the preadolescent age.
Clique stratification and dynamics
First of all, it is necessary to dwell upon the problem of clique stratification and dynamics since this issue reflects the complexity of relationships within groups of peers at the preadolescent age. It should be pointed out that Adlers revealed in their research that there exist certain hierarchy within peer groups that was actually not an absolutely new finding but what was really important was the fact that children’s clique stratification may change rapidly and often the positioning of a child within a group depends on his/her social background. To put it more precisely, the researchers underline that the authority and social status of a child’s parents may play a very important role in the positioning of their child in the group of peers. On the other hand, they also revealed the fact that children’s behavior in the group also influences considerably their status among their peers.
At the same time, the researchers indicate to the very important function clique stratification and dynamics play in the life and development of preadolescent children. For instance, they argue that “clique dynamic of inclusion and exclusion teaches young people of the fundamental values of conflict and prejudice” (73). Moreover, Adlers state that “as such, they may form the basis for the social reproduction of racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry and discrimination” (74).
In such a way, the authors a very important role of clique stratification and dynamics and their impact on the further development of children since in their study the researchers arrived to the conclusion that even at the early stages of the development and socialization of children they are susceptible to the influences of stereotypes and form prejudiced and biased attitude to some of their peers which are not accepted by the group and, therefore, turn to be excluded from the peer group. On the other hand, children perfectly feel the importance of being a part of the group and inclusive trends are very strong even among preadolescent children who want to be significant for their peer group.
At the same time, the problem of leadership is also very important in children’s cliques. For instance, Adlers found out that clique leaders maintain their elite positions by randomly building up and then diminishing the status of their followers, keeping them dependent and submissive” (121). In such a way, the authors indicate to the significance of leadership for children in their peer group. In fact, such relationships within peer group reveal the fact that leaders tend to the domination and are unwilling to lose their position even though the group has already recognized other children as its leaders. Naturally, this situation creates the basis for the future conflicts between group leaders and their followers as well as between members of the group.
The role of popularity is not less significant than clique stratification and dynamics. It is worth of mentioning that popularity is closely related to clique stratification and dynamics and produces a deep impact on the latter. Obviously, popularity of some children naturally affects their status within the group and the more popular a child is the higher position in the group hierarchy he/she occupies. The researchers point out that similarly to clique stratification and dynamics background of children may play an important role in their popularity. On the other hand, actions and behavior of children in the group are also of a paramount importance.
In this respect, it is necessary to underline that the researches distinguish different factors which contribute to children popularity depending on their gender. To put it more precisely, Alders conclude that a boy’s popularity is determined by what he does (154). At the same time, physical abilities and shape of a boy are very important. At any rate, according to the researches, athletic ability of boys is even more important for their popularity than their “coolness” and toughness, which, though, are also quite significant, especially with authority figures. In such a way, a physically strong, tough boy has more chance to get popular than a weak and shy boy.
As for girls, the researchers argue that, unlike boys, girls’ popularity is gained passively, from family background and socio-economic status, followed by physical appearance and the permissiveness of their parents (Adlers, 183). In such a way, the authors reveal the close interdependence of the gender and popularity and ways of its achievement by boys and girls in preadolescent peer groups. Obviously, the popularity of girls is basically determined by external factors, which girls cannot influence in direct, while boys gain popularity through their actions, though background is also significant for their popularity in the peer group.
Example of clique stratification and dynamics
Speaking about clique stratification and dynamics, it should be said that the conclusions made by the researchers basically meet the actual, real life situations. For instance, I recall my own childhood, my peers and I realize that often our attitude to some of our peers were unjust, while others were perceived as the leaders of our group. In this respect, I should say that there was a weak boy in our group who was really helpless and could not oppose to anyone who attempted to push on him. He was a timid and shy boy and often one of the bullies, there were a couple of them in our group, beat and abused him, while the rest of the group paid little attention to this boy because not a single student wanted to talk to or play with him. In such a way, this boy was excluded from our peer group that actually matches the conclusion made by the researchers that often children that cannot meet the standards of the group or be like other students tends to exclusion.
In contrast, the two bullies were our leaders. There were just a few boys who dared to argue with them but, as a rule, the bullies proved their power through fights with others and remained leaders of our group. At the same time, the relationship between the two leaders were characterized as a chief and an assistant since one of the boys was the first leader who gradually lost his popularity in the group but still he continued to dominate over another bully who was approved as a new group leader. In a way, this proves Adlers assumptions concerning leadership though it should be said that the former leader of the group had actually never lost its privileged status and belonged to the elite even being not supported by the group.
Example of popularity
The examples given above concerning the two bullies prove the correctness of the researches conclusion concerning the role of physical abilities of boys in gaining popularity. Nevertheless, the social status or background of children family’s does not always play very important role in the positioning of a child in a group and his/her popularity. For instance, there was a girl in our group who originated from a lower-middle class family that did not presuppose, according to Adlers, that she would be a popular girl, especially taking into consideration her plain appearance. However, this girl was extremely active, she always participated in various activities, games, plays, etc. And soon she gained our approval and became quite popular, though her behavior and popularity were not passive as Adlers presuppose.
“Stand by Me” in the context of Adlers’ study
At the same time, it is possible to extrapolate Adlers’ study not only on my personal experience but also on fictions, such as the movie “Stand by Me”. This movie depicts four friends, Gordie Lachance, the narrator, Vern Tessio, Teddy Duchamp, and Chris Chambers, who are close friend as the matter of fact. In this respect, it is necessary to underline that their friendship is quite specific since they became close friends because each of them had certain problems in their psychological or physical state and development. To put it more precisely, Chris, for instance, originates from a family of alcoholic and criminals, in spite of his desire and intelligence to break the generational curse, he is stereotyped by people accordingly. Teddy is deformed physically after his mentally unstable father held his ear to a stove and nearly burned it off. As a result, the boy wears a hearing aid. Vern has other physical and psychological problems – he is overweighed and timid. This is why he is easily scared and thus often his peers pick him on. Gordie is also quite different from other “normal” boys. He is a quiet, bookish boy with a penchant for telling stories, rejected by his father following the death of his football-star older brother.
This is why the four friends could be classified as social isolates because all of them have some drawbacks of characteristics which make them different from other children and lead to their exclusion from their peer group. Consequently, they shape their own group of outcasts united by the common problem – exclusiveness and rejection of their peers since, in actuality, they have little in common but this problem.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Pattie and Peter Adlers conducted a very important research which really helps better understand psychology of preadolescent children and their relationship within peer groups. At the same time, it is obvious that the subject of their research is very complicated and it is virtually impossible to perceive their study as the absolute truth, instead, it is necessary to continue their research to get more information on the development of preadolescent children and their relationships within peer groups.
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