Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. SD 1.2 Peer Approval

01/01/2000

As children grow older, peer relationships come to play an increasingly important role in determining their own behaviors and attitudes.1 For example, teenagers reporting that a large proportion of their friends are (or would like to be) sexually active are more likely to become sexually active themselves.2

Two measures of potential peer influence are offered here: the percentage of youth reporting that getting good grades has great or very great importance to their peers, and the percentage reporting that peers would disapprove of intentionally angering a teacher in school. Between 1980 and 1999, the percentage of 12th-graders reporting that their peers value good grades stayed fairly constant, varying between 44 percent and 49 percent 3 (see Figure SD 1.2.A). During that same time period, the percentage reporting peer disapproval of angering a teacher in school decreased from 41 percent in 1980 to 34 percent in 1999 (see Table SD 1.2.B).

Differences by Age. Eighth-grade students were more likely in 1999 than either 10th- or 12th-graders to report that their peers consider good grades to be of great or very great importance (50 percent versus 42 percent and 47 percent, respectively). In that same year, on the other hand, more 12th-grade students (34 percent) than 8th- or 10th-graders (22 and 26 percent, respectively) were likely to report peer disapproval of intentionally angering a teacher in school (see Tables SD 1.2.A and SD 1.2.B).

Differences by Gender. Female students were slightly more likely than males to report that their peers value good grades and that they would disapprove of intentionally angering teachers; for example, among 12th-grade youth in 1999, 49 percent of females and 44 percent of males reported that peers hold good grades to be of great or very great importance (see Table SD 1.2.A). In that same year, 37 percent of 12th-grade females and 30 percent of 12th-grade males reported peer disapproval of intentionally angering a teacher in school (see Table SD 1.2.B).

Differences by Race. For all years for which data are presented, black students in all grades were considerably more likely than their white counterparts to report strong peer support for good grades (see Figure SD 1.2.A); for example, in 1999, 39 percent of white and 77 percent of black 12th-graders reported that their peers believed that good grades were of great or very great importance. Black students are slightly less likely to report peer disapproval of intentionally angering teachers in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades. The difference by race is largest among high school seniors, in a trend that has been consistent since 1980 (see Figure SD 1.2.B).

1 Hayes, C.D. Risking the Future, p. 105; Newcomer, S.F., Gilbert, M., & Udry, J.R. Perceived and Actual Same-Sex Behavior as Determinants of Adolescent Sexual Behavior. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Montréal, Canada, 1980. Cited in National Commission on Children. 1991. Beyond Rhetoric: A New American Agenda for Children and Families, Final Report of the National Commission on Children, p. 351. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
2 Hayes, C.D. Risking the Future, p. 105; Cvetkovitch, G., & Grote, B. Psychological Development and the Social Problem of Teenage Illegitimacy. In Adolescent Pregnancy and Childbearing: Findings from Research (C. Chilman, ed). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1980. Cited in National Commission on Children. 1991. Beyond Rhetoric: A New American Agenda for Children and Families, Final Report of the National Commission on Children, p. 351. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
3 The 53 percent estimate occurred in 1982, not shown in Table SD 1.2.A.
 

Table SD 1.2.A Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students in the United States reporting that good grades have great or very great importance to peers, by gender and race: Selected years, 1980-1999

  1976 1981 1986 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
8th Grade
Total 51 52 54 54 55 55 52 51 50
Gender  
Male 50 50 54 52 52 54 51 52 49
Female 53 53 54 55 56 55 53 50 51
Race  
White 47 47 49 49 48 48 46 46 45
Black 72 72 70 70 72 77 71 69 68
10th Grade
Total 44 43 39 42 44 45 43 44 42
Gender  
Male 42 42 36 39 43 42 40 43 40
Female 46 44 42 45 45 47 45 46 44
Race  
White 38 38 35 38 39 40 38 37 36
Black 67 66 59 64 67 65 62 69 66
12th Grade
Total 48 49 48 44 45 46 45 46 46 45 45 47
Gender  
Male 48 50 46 41 42 43 44 41 44 41 42 44
Female 48 48 51 47 48 48 46 50 49 49 48 49
Race  
White 43 43 43 37 39 40 39 40 42 41 40 39
Black 78 77 76 71 70 61 67 67 69 59 63 77

Note: Data for 8th- and 10th-grade students are based on one of two questionnaire forms for 1991–1996, and based on two of four forms for 1997–1999, with a resulting sample size one-half of the total sample size for each grade in each year. Data for 12th-grade students are based on one of six questionnaire forms for 1989–1999 and one of five for 1980–1988, resulting in one-sixth, and one-fifth, respectively, of the total sample size for each year . Data for 8th and 10th grades have been available since 1991.
Sources: Bachman, Johnston, & O‘Malley, 1980, Questionnaire Form 5, item E06D; Bachman, Johnston, & O‘Malley, Questionnaire Form 3, item E06D; Bachman, Johnston, & O‘Malley, 1997 unpublished, Questionnaire Form 3, item E04D. Data for 8th and 10th grades are from unpublished questionnaire responses, Form 1, item E10D, for 1991-1996 and from unpublished questionnaire responses, Forms 1 & 3, item E08D, for 1997.
 

Table SD 1.2.B Percentage of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students in the United States reporting peer disapproval of intentionally angering a teacher in school, by gender and race: Selected years, 1980-1999

  1976 1981 1986 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
8th Grade
Total 26 24 24 21 22 23 23 24 22
Gender  
Male 22 20 20 18 19 20 21 20 20
Female 30 27 26 23 24 26 26 27 24
Race  
White 26 24 24 22 22 23 24 24 23
Black 23 24 23 22 22 22 20 23 20
10th Grade
Total 26 24 24 26 24 23 23 25 26
Gender  
Male 21 19 19 22 21 19 20 23 22
Female 31 28 28 30 28 26 27 28 30
Race  
White 27 25 25 26 25 23 24 26 27
Black 22 21 20 23 19 20 19 24 26
12th Grade
Total 41 42 33 33 34 34 33 36 35 34 33 34
Gender  
Male 37 35 29 31 28 30 25 32 29 31 28 30
Female 46 48 38 37 39 37 40 41 40 38 38 37
Race  
White 44 43 35 34 35 34 34 36 36 36 35 36
Black 29 33 30 29 30 27 25 33 28 30 24 23

Note: Data for 8th- and 10th-grade students are based on one of two questionnaire forms for 1991–1996, and based on two of four forms for 1997–1999, with a resulting sample size one-half of the total sample size for each grade in each year. Data for 12th-grade students are based on one of six questionnaire forms for 1989–1999 and one of five for 1980–1988, resulting in one-sixth, and one-fifth, respectively, of the total sample size for each year. Data for 8th and 10th grades have been available since 1991.
Sources: Bachman, Johnston, & O‘Malley, Questionnaire Form 1, item D007; data for 8th and 10th grades are from unpublished questionnaire responses, Form 1, item E08, for 1991-1996 and from unpublished questionnaire responses, Forms 1 & 3, item E06.
 

Figure SD 1.2.A Percentage of high school seniors in the United States reporting that good grades have great or very great importance to peers, by race: 1980-1999 a

a This question was not asked in 1981.
Sources: Bachman,Johnston, & O‘Malley, 1980, Questionnaire Form 5, item E06D; Bachman, Johnston, & O‘Malley, 1982-1995, Questionnaire Form 3, item E06D; Bachman, Johnston, & O‘Malley, 1997, Questionnaire Form 3, item E04D.
 

Figure SD 1.2.B Percentage of high school seniors in the United States reporting peer disapproval of intentionally angering a teacher in school, by race: 1980-1999

Source: Bachman, Johnston, & O‘Malley, 1980-1997, Questionnaire Form 1, item D007.

 

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