Peer groups matter more than we think. In this paper we assert that peer group commitments and affiliations are often the primary social reference in determining the way young people think about and practice risk. It is, we argue, inappropriate to impose adult constructions of risk-taking and anti-social behaviour when trying to assert influence over the decisions and practices young people make in the context of their peers. Prominent in our discussion is a concern that mainstream educational theory and practice focuses disproportionately on the individual and their capacity to make rational and independent choices. We believe that within this individualizing framework, teachers have only a very limited capacity to influence the practices and decisions young people make in the presence of their peers, their friends. To ground this discussion we juxtapose the actions and interactions of two young male peer groups, to highlight their respective constructions of group identity.
Online Publication Date: 01 March 2004
Field of Research
130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified