Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Adolescence (12–18)

How do peer relationships change during adolescence?

In modern Western society, peer relationships have enormous influence during adolescence. Relationships with peers, acceptance by peers, and the adolescent’s role and status in peer groups become of utmost importance. Peer relationships can be a source of great fun and excitement, but can also bring pain and humiliation when they do not go well.

What lies behind this greatly enhanced emphasis on peers? For one, in the movement away from dependence on parents, the adolescent turns toward peers as replacements for the family. Secondly, the adolescent’s increased perspective-taking capacities and greater understanding of emotional life allow for a level of intimacy with peers that was not possible earlier. As adolescents gain better understanding of their own motivations and emotional experience, they have greater capacity for empathy.

The ability and desire to share intimate experience creates intense bonds between friends. Initially, these intimate relationships are largely with friends of the same gender. The tendency toward chumship, or intense same-sex friendships, in early adolescence is slowly supplanted by romantic relationships in later adolescence, although same-sex friendships retain great importance throughout adolescence.


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