Peers, Schools, and Adolescent Development

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  • 0:02 Adolescence
  • 0:54 Peer Relationships
  • 2:48 Schools
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Adolescence is a time of change for most people. In this lesson, we'll look at the changes that occur in adolescence, including why peer groups become so important to teenagers and how school affects development.


Becca is 14 and just starting high school. Like many kids her age, she's worried about her new school and new classes. Everything seems so much harder and complex than it used to.

Becca is in adolescence, or the time of life between childhood and adulthood. During this time, teens have to deal with many changes. Their bodies and minds are changing, but so is the world around them. For example, Becca's school has changed, as have the subjects she's studying.

Friendships and schoolmates also become more important in adolescence. For example, Becca is spending more and more time worrying about what the other kids at school think of her. She chooses her clothes, music, and behavior based on what others think of her. Let's look closer at how school and peer relationships can affect adolescents' developments.

Peer Relationships

Becca is worried about what the kids at school, her peers, think of her. She makes life choices, like what to wear and what music to listen to, based on whether she thinks that will result in making her more liked and popular or not.

Becca is not alone. The importance of peer relationships increases in adolescence, as teens' focus changes from their family system to their peer group. For example, Becca used to really care what her parents thought of her. When she talked, for example, she would avoid cursing because her parents would be disappointed.

But now that she's a little older, Becca is less concerned with what her parents think and more concerned with what her peers think. She curses a lot now, because she knows that the other kids at school think that it's cool, even if her parents don't.

This shift from paying more attention to peer relationships and less attention to family relationships is a normal part of adolescence. It serves two purposes: helping teens become independent of their parents and helping teens explore identity and who they are. Both of these are part of becoming an adult, which is the next stage of life after adolescence.

Because peer relationships are so important in adolescence, though, the way a teen experiences friendships can have a profound impact on their life. Adolescents who are accepted by their peers are better off than those who are rejected by their peers. Teens who have lots of friends tend to adjust better and have higher self-esteem than those who do not.

For example, Becca has been having trouble recently. Since she started high school, her friends from middle school aren't talking to her anymore, though Becca isn't sure why. She's been called names and gotten mean text messages from people at school. All of this bullying has made Becca feel depressed and has had a negative impact on her self-esteem.


Remember that Becca recently moved from middle school into high school. The educational environment is another major influence on adolescent development. This is because school hits upon two major developmental processes: cognitive (or intellectual) and social development.

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