Is the peer group more influential than the family?

I have read media reports of a claim by a researcher in the USA that children are influenced more by the peer group than by their family. I am sceptical. The media often choose to provide a shock-and-horror vista. Second, the research was in the USA, where there seems to be lesser parental control of children than in other Western nations; certainly more than in Asian nations.

Third, these reports did not clearly identify the age range of those studied. Four, we need to know more about the relational mechanisms which could lead pre-schoolers and primary school children to challenge their parents; children’s love and dependency are normally high before about age 13, when the conceptual capacity of a child’s brain becomes enhanced.

Is it surprising that it is normally in high school that children enquire of their parents and teachers about the rules and edicts which apply to them? Anticipating this development, my children, from age 12, were invited to ask me and their mother (we stood together on every platform) about the rationale underpinning any rule of interest to them. An interesting discussion, generally at meal times (we always ate together), would follow. What was at issue, often, was the responsibility of parents against any desire by children to be more independent.

Near the end of high school, when control was somewhat loosened, we became aware of a determined effort by some students to have others accept their strictures (self-made, self-defined) about this or that aspect of conduct, with rights being asserted freely, while conformity within the group was insisted upon! In an allegedly classless society, what came through was an attempted imposition of certain socio-cultural values. The group’s pressure was obvious. What was the motivation? One size fits all; or pulling down tall poppies?

My response was to offer freedom. If your friends are more important in your life than your parents, please feel free to join them in their homes; but do keep in touch. Remember – our parental responsibility expires when you become an adult at 18. Ha! That ended the crap that we oldies did not ‘understand’. It also brought a better balance between relative responsibilities; and an awareness that one must pay adequate regard to the uncertainties of the future.

With the on-going deterioration of society through the breakdown of family, resulting in the proliferation of single-parent families, and some ‘blended’ families (whose durability seems challengeable), one can expect tribo-cultural values to become attenuated, weakened. It may not be the peer group, but the laws of the jungle which will then prevail.