Jan 1, See other articles in PMC that cite the published article. Limitations of this study and suggestions for future research are discussed. . The relationship between positive peer influence and sobriety is likely bi-directional. Dec 2, are maintaining healthy peer relationships. These are just a few of the many tips the Department of Health and Human Services had to offer. How you can make a difference in your teen's life by talking to them about peer relationships.
Because of advanced cognitive and emotional maturity, teens can now encourage each other to make wise decisions, and discourage each other from making harmful choices. Since it is important for youth to "fit in" with their peer group they may also decide to participate in the same hobbies or activities as their friends. This enables them to spend more time together and to bond over shared experiences.
In general, teens will gravitate toward peer groups with whom they share common interests and activities, similar cultural backgrounds, or simply a similar outlook on life. But oftentimes, as teens experiment with their identitythey may be attracted to peer groups with very dissimilar interests. Adolescent peer groups are quite a bit different from the typical circle of friends that are characteristic of younger children.
For instance, adolescent peer groups are closer and more tightly knit. This increased group cohesion is due to the changing quality of teens' relationships. The increased vulnerability and emotional closeness of adolescent peer relationships require more trust; thus, there is a greater commitment and allegiance to their peer group. Increased group cohesion also serves to create a sense of interpersonal safety and protection.
When youth have several good friends who remain loyal through "thick and thin," they feel more secure and confident in their social support system. However, the increased loyalty and cohesion that is characteristic of adolescent peer groups can lead to several problems, particularly in the early and middle adolescent years. Cliques may form and some children will inevitably be excluded. This kind of rejection is often very painful, particularly for very sensitive children.
Other times, groups of youth may be negatively labeled for their characteristics or interests, creating tension and conflict between groups. For instance, many popular movies and television shows draw upon the classic conflict between the popular "jocks," and the unpopular "nerds" or "geeks.
Another problem associated with adolescent peer groups is these groups can lead to bullying situations. Several respondents discussed the information that students often share with one another. In addition to providing support for their peers in the recovery school, staff also described the ways that some students have reached outside of the school, for example through speaking at other local high schools about addiction, recovery, and the resources available to students.
Although this does not happen at every recovery high school, it provides an example of one way that recovery high school students are providing positive, informational support to their peers outside of the recovery school.
In addition to emotional and informational support, recovery high school staff also described the ways in which students come to replace one another's former, often substance-using friend groups.
For many students, having to sever ties with their substance-using friends is an important part of the recovery process, creating a critical need for affiliational support Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, that other recovery high school students are in the position to provide.
Through this shared support among students, the recovery high schools are able to develop an environment where peers care for one another and hold one another accountable.
Through the mechanisms of emotional, informational, and affiliational support, the recovery high schools create a space that facilitates positive peer support for adolescents in recovery.
Teens And Peer Relationships
This positive support was a recurring theme in interviews with school staff members. However, it is important to note the ways that staff observed peers exerting a negative influence on one another.
- Healthy Peer Relationships
Negative Peer Influence Although interviews with recovery high school staff generally conveyed an image of positive, supportive relationships among students, school staff members were also careful not to create a romanticized description of student relationships, acknowledging the negative influences that peers can exert.
Despite expectations that students will support each other, school staff reported experiences of recovery high school students pressuring one another to use drugs: Interestingly, students are often asked to leave for the sake of the community, and are challenged to consider the needs of their peers in these difficult conversations.
For example, in response to the situation described in the last quote, the school counselor asked the students who were dealing to leave the school: This highlights some of the complexity evident in identifying the nature — positive, negative, or both — of peer influence.
Recovery school staff described several instances of positive peer support, particularly around filling the social void left when friendships were severed from substance-using peers.
The social outings among recovery high school students, however, at times led to risky behaviors, an issue that is made all the more complex when engaged in together with classmates who are part of a student's accountability network. The director of one school described one such incident: You know, there was a party that happened a month and a half ago. All [our] students got completely out of control, a lot of boundaries were blurred, and it was crazy around here for that week or so.
When recovery school peers relapse, it is an issue that the community works through, often with individual and group counseling. One school counselor explained the school's expectations around spending time with former friends: It's night and day difference to the kids who kind of white knuckle it and aren't doing anything and who refuse to work an active recovery program.
They're the ones who are sleeping through classes and not coming to school or being consistently late or suspended. In addition to peer influence related to substance use, recovery high school staff also reported peers influencing one another in negative ways that are generally considered to be fairly normal for high school students. Peer Relationships In addition to talking directly about the positive and negative influence that peers in recovery high schools have on one another, school staff also talked about the nature of relationships among students more generally.
Staff members' thoughts about student dynamics often focused on unique aspects of the social climate that resulted from the smaller size of recovery schools.
Although the smaller size could facilitate a strong sense of community, as discussed below, the intimate setting also posed certain challenges. The constantly changing nature of friendships and romantic relationships that often characterize adolescence was at times magnified by the small school size in a way that influenced the daily experience of students. As one counselor described, Being smaller schools it seems like there's a lot of relationship drama that happens where kids start dating each other and then they break up and Although staff members are present to help mediate issues as they arise within the school day, some found it difficult to navigate the boundaries of their responsibilities when it came to students' use of social media websites such as Facebook.
For example, if information posted on a student's personal profile indicates he has relapsed, or that there are problems between two recovery school students, should the school staff member respond? The small size of the schools, therefore, creates challenges for students who have negative experiences with particular peers and are then unable to change peer groups within the school, and for staff as they work to create appropriate intimacy and boundaries in the recovery high school community.
The small size of the schools, however, could also lead to a greater accountability among students. Several staff members reported an atmosphere in which secrets were difficult to keep, especially as they pertained to sobriety.
In the same way that peers at times held each other accountable in a one-on-one relationship, there was a sense among staff that the community also provided a certain level of accountability. One school counselor described this phenomenon: In this way, the general sense of peer relationships at times provided staff members with information that was useful in holding students accountable to their commitment to sobriety.
In addition to peer dynamics common among adolescents and dynamics related to accountability, recovery school staff also discussed issues that were commonly experienced by adolescents in recovery, regardless of whether they attended a recovery school. Family members, school staff, or stipulations of adolescents' treatment plans often compel many youth in recovery to sever ties with their former friend group if those peers provided the environment where the student engaged in drug use.
For students who have to sever these ties, they often face the unique challenge of dealing with their addiction while also trying to overcome a sense of social isolation.
Healthy Peer Relationships - WiseSOVA
One school social worker described this dilemma: A lot of them turn to the Internet and they turn to gaming and they seclude themselves even more which is something we keep wanting to work through I think there's some, there's connectedness, but it hasn't gotten to the point of necessarily hanging out, out of school.
And some of that could be barriers of transportation and things like that. In addition to difficulties finding reliable and safe transportation, the population of students within a recovery high school is also relatively transient.
Staff members at all schools described widely varying lengths of enrollment in the recovery schools, ranging from a few days to a few years, with frequent turnover of some or all of the student population.
The practical issues faced by students in recovery, such as finding transportation and the acknowledgment that the community is only a temporary place for most students, likely contribute to staff members' perception that it can be quite challenging for students to provide extensive mutual support to one another outside of the school day.
Sense of Community Despite the challenges faced by a school with a small number of students, school staff spoke at length about the positive sense of community experienced by students and staff at the recovery high schools. In discussing the intimacy experienced within the school setting, several staff members used familial language to describe the relationships.
As one principal described this closeness, So many [recovery high school students] don't have a family, you know, and we, almost the program becomes their family, so they really depend upon each other and upon us. We see a lot of them come back just to update us on how they're doing.
Peer Relationships – Regina Pally
In addition to support, school staff described the recovery schools as — like a family — also requiring structure and enforcing particular rules. They're accountable for their actions because there's a focus on it. Recovery high school staff, therefore, envisioned a community that provides accountability through building trusting, familial relationships. This strong sense of community, however, did not occur naturally, but required intentional work to foster positive relationships among students and between staff and students.
Part of the work toward building a community is done by the school staff. Staff members described the ways in which teachers, counselors, and directors all work to build supportive relationships with students. For example, some schools allow students to call teachers, counselors, and even principals by their first name, and provide students with the staff members' cell phone numbers so students can text if they need support during after school hours.
Adults in the school also work to build a sense of community through the daily check-in times with students, providing a space to build trust amongst one another and develop a greater understanding of the unique challenges faced by each person. Students and staff, therefore, work together to establish a positive sense of community that is supportive of students' recovery. Discussion When discussing peer influence in schools, staff discussed the positive aspects — encouraging one another, connecting each other with community resources, and providing empathy and accountability — far more often than they discussed negative aspects — pressure to use drugs or negative relationship dynamics.
In general, recovery school staff seemed to believe that students supported one another in recovery and provided emotional, informational, and affiliational support. This picture of peer support, however, was not overly romanticized. Recovery school staff also discussed the complexities involved in working with a community of adolescents who are all in recovery, from the challenges posed when any one member of the community relapses, to the potential dangers of one student's relapse leading to the relapse of many.
Although instances of negative peer influence were discussed, they were usually paired with an account of how the problem was addressed in a way that would maintain the supportive nature of the community. In sum, then, recovery school staff members seem to acknowledge the possibility of iatrogenic effects within the recovery school but work actively to minimize those and maximize peer support.
When recovery school staff discussed the friendships students had prior to treatment or outside of the recovery high school, it was almost always assumed that those friendships would have to be severed to prevent those peers from negatively influencing the recovery school student. There was, however, considerable gray area to be dealt with in this dichotomy.
For example, when a student in the recovery school relapsed and subsequently caused another student to relapse, that first student then shifted from a positive support to a negative influence and school staff suggested that this student leave the school.
However, for other students, relapse was dealt with as a whole community, and students were asked to provide extra support and accountability to peers who relapsed. This dichotomization of peers as either positive or negative influences on recovery school students leads to many questions that recovery school staff must continually endeavor to answer.
For example, who decides which peers are positive influences and which are negative? How do adolescents transition from one category to the other, and how flexible are these boundaries?
More broadly, it's important to ask at what point adolescents have the opportunity to move from passive recipients of positive or negative influence from their peers to become active agents who are encouraged to positively impact their peers.
Recovery school students seem to experience both classifications; on the one hand, their peers in the school influence them, but they are also encouraged to support one another and to provide the type of support that they know is important for recovery.
One recovery school staff member described work students at that particular school did in going to traditional local high schools to talk about recovery and available resources, but this was not an activity that was reported by other recovery high school staff members although we did not ask about this directly.
These are all important questions for recovery school staff members — and students — to consider as they work toward building a positive community of recovery support.Healthy Relationships Mini-Course by Marisa Peer
As students and staff work toward creating a community that fosters positive, supportive interactions among peers, they are also shaping the overall school climate and sense of community. Perhaps, as suggested based on Bryant and colleagues' study, positive school bonds mitigate the potential for iatrogenic effects among peers in recovery. As recovery school staff described the relationships among individual students, they often situated their comments within a discussion of the community more broadly, conveying a sense that the individual and communal dynamics are inextricably linked.
The presence of strong, positive bonds with the community, therefore, might help to diminish some of the potential negative influences that occur within individual peer relationships. Finally, recovery school staff also indicated that this sense of community, built on a foundation of positive peer support, is a key aspect of the recovery high school program.
Limitations and Conclusion Conclusions based on this study are limited due to the qualitative nature of the data. The data reviewed here help us understand how staff members at recovery high schools in one geographic area understand peer relationships among students in their particular schools.
In discussing peer influence among recovery high school students, however, we cannot eliminate the possibility that adolescents who choose to attend recovery schools are somehow different than the broader population of youth in recovery, limiting the generalizability of the data.
We also acknowledge that more data should be collected that could provide more insight into the nature of peer relationships in recovery high schools. Specifically, future research should ask adults more specific and probing questions about peer relationships, and perhaps more importantly the recovery high school students should also be interviewed to understand their first-hand experiences of both positive and negative peer influences.
Finally, a larger quantitative, longitudinal study of youth in recovery that asks recovery high school students about their peer relationships and peer influence over time would add tremendous insight to this discussion.
Fortunately, this type of research is currently in progress, through the grant that funded the present study. Based on interviews with staff members at recovery high schools, we can conclude that peers play an important role in one another's recovery.
There is evidence of both positive and negative influences from peers, although the overarching discussion seems to focus on the positive, supportive roles that peers can play in the recovery process. The influence from peers outside of the recovery school, however, is mostly characterized as risky and recovery high school students are often encouraged to sever ties with their former friends in order to focus on cultivating relationships with sober peers.
Future research should continue to explore peer relationships to better understand how to facilitate positive peer influence and how to empower recovery high school students to be agents of positive change in their own lives and in the lives of their peers.
Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute on Drug Abuse or the National Institutes of Health. Her research interests include youth civic engagement, adolescent addiction and recovery, program evaluation, and the intersection of research and public policy. Studies of independence and conformity: A minority of one against a unanimous majority. Social-learning theory of identificatory processes.
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