Throughout one’s life certain groups are important as models for one sides and conduct norms. Such groups are called reference groups. At first, the family group is the most important, since it is the only group most infants have when they are most impressionable. All authorities agree that the basic personality characteristics of the individual are formed in these first years within the family [White, 1975; Shaffer and Dunn, 1982]. Somewhat later, the Peterborough persons of the same age and status becomes important as a reference group. A child’s failure to gain social acceptance in its peer group is often followed by a lifelong pattern of social rejection and social failure. Unless one has had a fair measure of child and adolescent peer group acceptance it is difficult if not impossible for one to develop an adult self-image as a competent and worthwhile person. Fa this reason, perceptive
teachers and counselors devote much effort to helping wallflowers raise their acceptance level in the peer group Doden, 1976].
Many studies have shown that by the middle teens the peer group has become an extremely important reference group, and possibly the most important influence upon attitudes, goals, and conduct norms [e.g., Otto, 1977; Hoge and Petrillo, 1978; Youniss, J.980]. The teenager’s disgusted retort, “Oh, Mother!” neatly epitomizes the frequent clash betwee par-nt norms and peer norms, in which parent norms are often the loser. As we mature, a succession of reference groups emerges and fades. The high school crowd dissolves, and students go to college, where they judge their academic performance against that of their classmates [Bassis, 1977]. Workers’ images of their competence may be more dependent upon their perceptions of how they are seen by fellow workers than upon their perceptions of how they are seen by supervisors, meaning that fellow workers are a more important reference group than are supervisors. From hundreds of possible reference groups a few become important for each person, and from these groups’ evaluations the person’s self-image’ is continuously formed and reformed