All complex societies have ,many groups and subcultures  with differing and sometimes opposing standards. One is presented with
models of behavior which are rewarded at one time and punished at another, or approved by some groups and condemned by others. Thus the boy learns that he should be "tough" and able to "stand up for his rights," yet at the same time he should be orderly, considerate, and respectful- Some caution the young girl to remain chaste, while others urge her to be "emancipated." In a society in which each person moves in a number of groups with differing standards and values, each person must work out some way of dealing with these opposing pressures. People may deal with this problem by compartmentalizing their lives, developing a different "self" for each grouping which they move. Or they may select a favorite reference group to conform to and have their real life within, rejecting other groups, as in the case below:

"Thirteen arrests." The judge shook his head over my file. "Gang fighting, shootings, burglary, stealing a car I don't know what to make of you. Your parents are hardworking, religious people in pretty good circumstances. Your IQ is extraordinarily high. Why do you do these things?" I shrugged. What a dumb question. Every boy I knew did these things. MaybeI just did more of them and better. ("A Gang Leader's Redemption," Life, Apr. 28, 1958, pp. 69ff.) This boy had adopted the standards of a delinquent peer group rather than those of his family. Research studies [Warner and Lunt, 1941, p. 351; Rosen, 1955; Cary, 1974] have usually emphasized the power of the peer group to cultivate behavior patterns contrary to those of the family. Not all youths, however, are as firmly wedded to peer group standards, and not all peer groups are as much in conflict with family or society. Most youths find their principal extrafamily group allegiance in athletic teams, church youth groups, neighborhood clubs, or youth cliques in harmony with' most of the standards of conventional adult society. A great deal has been written in recent years about the "youth revolt" and the "generation gap." Yet careful surveys show that while there is a strong for change among today's young people, they are in fundamental agreement-with their parents on basic values more often'than they are in disagreement [Yankelovich, 1972; Erskine, 1973; Wright, 1975; Lubeck and Bengtson, 1971 Martin, 1982].
Why 90 some youths select peer groups which generally support adult values while others choose peer groups at war with adult society? The choice seems to be related to self-image. Habitual delinquents are usually those who see themselves as unloved unworthy unable accepted unappreciated; they join with other such deprived youths in a delinquent peer group which reinforces and sanctions their resentful aggressive behavior. Law-abiding youths see themselves loved, worthy, able, accepted appreciated toy join with others like themselves in a conforming peer group which reinforces socially approved behavior. Truly, seeing is behaving. How we see ourselves is how we behave.

Posted on September 2, 2014 in FIELD AND METHODS OF SOCIOLOGY

Share the Story

About the Author

Back to Top
Share This