Peer group and environment on junior secondary school student
1.1 Background of the study
Home Environment is a descriptive profile which yields a systematic assessment of the caring environment where the child is reared. It refers to aspects of peoples’ domestic lives that contribute to their living conditions. These factors may be physical such as poverty, psychological conditions due to parenting and social circumstances. Various home environment factors have been shown to be important such as parents’ responsiveness, discipline style, and involvement with the child; organization of the environment; availability of appropriate learning materials; opportunities for daily stimulation. Research has revealed that parents who provide a warm, responsive, and supportive home environment; encourage exploration; stimulate curiosity; and provide play and learning materials, accelerate their children’s intellectual development, compliant behaviour and make them less vulnerable to risky sexual behaviour Schunk DH, Pintrich PR, Meec (2008)
Adolescence is a time of transformation in many areas of an individual’s life. In the midst of these rapid physical, emotional, and social changes, youth begin to question adult standards and the need for parental guidance. (Nicole, 2004 in Castrogiovanni, 2002). It is also a time for individuals to make important decisions about their commitment to academics, family, and perhaps religion. Young adults begin to ask questions such as, “Is school important to me?” and “How do I want to spend my time?” The choices that adolescents make regarding their motivation, engagement, and achievement in school (and in life) and the satisfaction they obtain from their choices depend, in part, on the context in which they make such choices (Ryan, 2000 as cited in Castrogiovanni, 2002).
Teachers, parents, and peers all provide adolescents/students with suggestions and feedback about what they should think and how they should behave in social situations. These models can be a source of motivation or a lack thereof. Modelling refers to individual changes in cognition, behaviour, or effects that result from the observation of others (Ryan, 2000 in Castrogiovanni, 2002). Observing others perform a particular behaviour or voice a certain opinion can introduce an individual to new behaviours and viewpoints that may be different from his or her own. Observation also enlightens an individual on the consequences of such behaviour and opinions. Depending on these consequences, observation of a model can strengthen or weaken the likelihood the observer will engage in such behaviour or adopt such beliefs in the future.
Peer group effect/influence is an important component in determination of student outcomes. A typical student learns from discussions with his peers and can possibly be affected by their personality and attitude towards learning. Peer students can also be motivated by working together. It is well established that the quality of peers could affect a wide range of student outcomes from school performance to health conditions or even juvenile criminal behaviour. Economists have investigated in the peer effects for a variety of peers include proximity based peers such as schoolmates. (Evans et al., 1992, Sacerdote, 2001, Hoel et al., 2005), classmates (Ammermueller and Pischke, 2009), or linkage based peer, such as friendship (Cooley 2009, Bramoulle et al., 2009).Children’s peer relationships in the early grades have consequences for children’s short-term and long-term school adjustment, including academic achievement (Bierman, 2004; Ladd, 1990). The most frequently studied aspects of peer relations are peer acceptance/rejection and friendships. Low peer acceptance (or high peer rejection) forecasts school avoidance and disaffected patterns of engagement from kindergarten through the middle grades (Buhs & Ladd, 2001; Furrer & Skinner, 2003; Ladd, Birch, & Buhs, 1999; Wentzel, 1998). Longitudinal studies with elementary students have clarified processes responsible for the impact of peer acceptance on achievement, highlighting the mediating roles of both classroom participation (Buhs, Ladd, & Herald, 2006) and self-perceived academic competence (Flook, Repetti, & Ullman, 2005). With respect to the role of friends on achievement, having a close friend may promote academic achievement due to the buffering effect of friendships on children’s feelings of loneliness, which predicts lower academic motivation and achievement (Kochenderfer & Ladd, 1996).
Peer group is an important influence throughout one’s life but they are more critical during the developmental years of childhood and adolescence. Adolescents always emulate their mates in whatever form of behaviour they exhibit, particularly that which interest them thus, since socialization only refer to changes in behaviour, attitudes having their origin in interaction with other persons and those which occur through integration, a child learn more through interaction with peers. (Bierman, 2004; Ladd, 1990).
Socialization being a life-long process cannot be limited to the family members alone. As a child grows older and more matured, it become more necessary for the external bodies to be involved in his/her life. The family is not expected to provide all the education required by the growing child. The school which is an established academic institution in which the behaviour of an individual is sharpened to get him/her equipped for occupational socialization. In the school system, the child gets into the social group of “like minds” and interest. As a result of the various attitudes, skills, knowledge is acquired through role-play. Peer group as an agent of socialization is the most important socializing is the most important socializing agent for the developing child. Peer group is the pivot of social change and during interaction peers; the child’s life is transformed from the helpless child into a mature adult. (Bierman, 2004; Ladd, 1990).
According to Peter and Pellegrini, (2001) each peer group has its code of conduct which does not always conform to adult standards. The important thing is that each child takes his/her membership of the peer very serious and attempts to do anything to ensure he/she is accepted and recognized. Lack of acceptance by t he peer disturbs the child especially at adolescent age. Some children have been known to do badly in school not because they lack the academic ability to do well but because they are disturbed by the fact they are not accepted by their peer group. What makes learning comparative is the fact that the child has equal status with the other children. There is an atmosphere of freedom in which each child learns the way of the world from others. The peer group thus becomes more and more important to the child as he advances in age. Other ways in which the peer group can help the child include, teaching the culture of the society at large, making possible social mobility, providing opportunity for the child to play many social roles such as that of a leader, a follower, teacher or student. The peer group also help the child to win his/her independence easily from domination and set before him a goal which is more easily attainable than the expectation of adults. This in itself provides motivation for learning and is mainly responsible for the fact that all children at one stage or the other regard their membership of peer group as very important.
When the family is not supportive for instance, if the parents work extra jobs and are largely unavailable, their children may turn to their peer for emotional support. This also occur when the conflict between parents and children during adolescence or at any stage during a child’s development becomes so great that the child feels pushed away and seeks company elsewhere. Most children and adolescents in this position do not discriminate about the kind of group they join. They will often turn to a group simply because the group accepts them even if the group is involved in negative tendency. (Peter and Pellegrini, 2001). The need for affection or closeness is often greater than the need to do the right thing. For some adolescents who feel isolated and abandoned by members of their family being part of a peer group provides such individual with acceptance and security not available at home. In the Nigerian society today, the influence of peer group cannot be over emphasized in a child’s life most especially child education. Peer group has in one way or the other influenced the life of children both academically, socially, morally, psychologically and otherwise. Socialization such as family, religion, mass media, and school among others help in modifying the behaviour of the child.
1.2 Statement of problem
Research has shown that most children who have positive peer relationship (i.e. have friends and/or are liked by classmates) also do well academically (Cohen, 2004; Ladd, Birch & Buhs, 1999; Ladd, Kochenderfer, and Coleman, 1996; Ladd & Price, 1987; Wentzel & Caldwell, 1997); and that children who are rejected by peers early on tend to encounter more academic difficulties in later years (Ladd, 1990; Wentzel and Caldwell, 1997). However, it remains unclear if children perform better academically during the years they have more positive peer group experiences.
Children socialize with the people with which they associate. Through interaction over many years, acceptable social customs are taught and fostered. Other children as well as adults can have a great impact on a broad range of issues in the child’s life including achievement in schools. The research is geared towards having a proper understanding of the way social interaction or peer group influence affect academic achievement and it is very important for parents, educators, and policy makers. The immediate environment such as peer, family, school, religion and other factors can encourage or discourage student’s academic performance.
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