According to (Brown & Larson, 2008), “for decades, scholars have noted peer relationships as an essential features of adolescence. Peers have been alternately blamed for problematic aspects in the functioning of adolescent and praised for contributing to adolescent health and well being as well. As evidence assembled over the second half of the twentieth century, researchers have come to several conclusions about the nature of peer relations in adolescence.
According to (Brown and Larson, 2008), “Peer relations become more salient in adolescence .The transition from childhood to adolescence bring changes in the individual, social context, and social norms that serve to elevate the importance of peers.” Young people during adolescence spend more time with their age mates with reduced sight of adults.
Adolescents start to put greater value on expectations and opinions of peers. In some arenas, peers compete with adults as a significant source of influence on adolescent attitudes, activities, and emotional well – being. Several researches have been conducted on understanding peer relationship and its impact on different aspects. Many studies have shown that peer- relationship plays an important role in the development of an individual.
According to (Shaffer and Kipp,2010) , “peer influence on self-esteem become more apparent when the children enter the phase of adolescence, and the quality of the friendship plays the most important part in deciding adolescents’ self-esteem. It is very important to understand the relation between peer-relationship and self-esteem in order to understand the influence they have on each other.”
One of the first theorists to explore and study the association between peer relations and self-esteem was Sullivan. (Sullivan, 1953) believed that the development of self-worth took place during the grade-school years. In the Sullivan view, the peer group was instrumental in fostering that development. (Sullivan,1953) believed that the experience of being isolated from one’s peer group, especially from the ages of seven through nine, would lead to feelings of inferiority that could block the development of healthy self-esteem.
Sullivan has stated that peer relationship has more effects on the self-esteem of an individual especially during the childhood ages of seven to nine. Other researchers too have agreed upon the Sullivan’s view that the factors of peer relationship has more influence on the self-esteem of younger children. (Rubenstein and Howes, 1979) found that eighteen-month-olds with a friend in day-care tolerate their mother’s leaving, which suggests that peer friendship serves a security function as well as promoting a more positive level of affect.
They also found that with a familiar peer, nineteen-month-old infants played with, imitated, and offered objects to the peer significantly more often than they engaged in similar interactions with their mothers. (Rubenstein and Howes, 1976) concluded that the peer is an important social object in the second year of life, enhancing toddlers’ competence with their own toys. It has been established by several researchers that poor peer acceptance, especially in younger children, has a deleterious effect on the formation of self-esteem (e.g., Asher ; Parker, 1989; Boivin ; Begin, 1989; Duck, 1983).
While (Sullivan, 1953) acknowledges the importance of early family experience in shaping the child’s self-esteem and “self-system,” he also emphasizes the critical role of preadolescence and adolescence in providing new opportunities for self-exploration and self-correction. During preadolescence proof of personal worth and social reality testing is accomplished through peer relationships.
The adolescents seek to be validated on the basis of their peer’s judgment. During adolescence, children start to measure themselves against their peers, in terms of their strength and abilities, and there is a continual process of social comparison and self-evaluation. Children develop impressions about the limits of their abilities and their relative positions in group dominance and affection hierarchies. This contributes to an evaluation of their level of self-esteem.
Sullivan has given us an insight on the effects of peer relationship on the self-esteem of young children and adolescents. The process of effects on self-esteem isn’t just limited to childhood experiences as (Cotton, 1983) notes, “self-esteem is never finally settled; it is renegotiated at each developmental crisis.”
Peer relationship has two factors and plays a salient role in defining the relationship between peer relationship and self-esteem. (Asher and Parker, 1989) examined the relationship between friendship and peer acceptance and found that over one-half of all poorly accepted children had at least one friend.
Furthermore, (Parker and Asher, 1993) found that some highly accepted children did not have reciprocal friendships. Taken together, the evidence from those two studies supported the (Furman and Robbins, 1985) contention that popularity and friendship are not equivalent constructs. Thus, given the argument that researchers need to investigate the relationship between self-esteem and differing aspects of peer relations (e.g., Bukowski &Hoza, 1989), it appears that peer acceptance and dyadic friendship are two constructs worthy of such attention.
There have been many research conducted which has defined which factor whether peer acceptance or friendship affects the self-esteem more. (Bukowski and Hoza, 1989) also suggested that researchers need to identify the relative and unique contributions to the development of self-esteem made by differing aspects of peer relations, such as friendship and peer acceptance or popularity.