Peer relationships provide an important component of developing social skills. Between the ages of four and seven, peers are playmates (children who like each other and play together). From age eight to ten, trust and assistance become important. By age 11, intimacy and loyalty build in the relationships.

Gender Differences:

1. Females:

a. Drawn to the emotional and intimate aspects of relationships

b. Greater self-disclosure

2. Males:

a. More emphasis on shared interests and activities

b. Have a larger number of friends, but by adulthood, quality ranks higher than quantity

According to the buffering hypothesis, a person's perception of having social support becomes more important than the actual amount of support.

As pointed out by Carol Gilligan, adolescent girls are especially vulnerable during their adolescent years and experience a relational crisis that involves psychological separation from themselves, others, and the world as a result of external pressures to conform to cultural stereotypes.

Children who are popular with peers have a positive self-concept and are seen as attractive, intelligent, and creative. They are also friendly and exhibit good social skills. Conversely, children who are actively rejected by their peers tend to be overaggressive or withdrawn, and they may be immature and lack social competence. These children also tend to get low grades and have a poor self-concept. They are at higher risk for delinquent, anti-social behaviors as adolescents, and they may present with anxiety, depression, and other psychological issues.

Peer Pressure:

1. Conformity to peers is more likely for pro-social behavior than for antisocial behavior.

2. The effect of peer pressure is greatest in areas of overt observable behavior such as choice of music and dress or smoking, drinking, and drug use.

3. Middle school and high school students CAN resist peer pressure to act antisocially.

4. Parents have greater effect than peers on decisions related to career, college, politics, and other important issues.