Some adolescents either are rejected by their peers or choose to be loners, belonging to neither clique nor crowd. For many of these loners, adolescence is a difficult and unhappy time; they may suffer cruelty and indifference from others of their age group who are safe and secure within their own clique. What determines whether an adolescent will be accepted by his or her peers? Personality and social behaviour characteristics determine entry to the peer group. People accepted by peers are thought to like other people, be tolerant, flexible, sympathetic, lively, cheerful, good-natured, humorous, and to act naturally and self-confidently without being conceited. Initiative, enthusiasm and drive, along with plans for group activities, can help gain acceptance. The opposite of these characteristics is likely to lead to rejection from the peer group. Adolescents who are ill at ease, timid or who lack self-confidence may end up socially isolated. An individual who tries to combat insecurity by over-assertiveness, conceit and demands for attention may be actively disliked and rejected.
Other factors may affect the degree of an adolescent’s acceptance or rejection by peers, such as intelligence, physical attractiveness, athletic ability, practical skills, changes as the teenager grows older. In the pre-ado-lescent years, peer relationships centre on members of the same sex: boys tend to form ‘gangs’; girls are more likely to remain closer to their parents or to form relationships with older males, and tend to have more intimate relationships with only a few other girls.
As adolescence progresses, three sets of peer relationships emerge. The ‘crowd’ relationship involves large organized activities, such as youth clubs, discos and parties. The crowd freely admits almost everyone, and provides opportunities for easy associations with the opposite sex. The smaller, more intimate ‘clique’ allows the adolescent to keep abreast of current trends in clothes, fashion, music, leisure interests, language and popular topics of conversation.
Cliques may serve as a place for testing developing personal beliefs and values, while also preparing the adolescent for crowd activities by discussing them beforehand and evaluating them after they have happened. Same-sex cliques predominate during the early stages of adolescence, and heterosexual interactions usually take place in the crowd setting such as at a disco or dance. In later adolescence cliques tend more to be mixed-sex, or loose associations between couples. Those same-sex cliques that do continue are less stable. At this more mature stage, the importance of the crowd lessens, the need for peer conformity diminishes, and the individual’s own identity becomes increasingly distinct.