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Chapter 15 Textbook notes

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Longitudinal evidence indicates that these play forms emerge in the order Parten suggested but that lasted-appearing forms do not replace earlier ones in a developmental sequence. Rather, all types coexist during the preschool years. Watch chip move from one play to another in a playgroup or preschool classroom, and you will see that they often transition from onlooker to parallel to cooperative play and back again. Preschoolers seem to use parallel play as a way station——a respite from the high demands of complex social interaction and a crossroad to new activities. And although nonsocial activity declines with age, it is still the most frequent form among 3- to 4-year-olds. Even among kindergarteners it continues to occupy about one-third of children's free-play time. Also, both solitary and parallel play remain fairly stable from 3 to 6 years, accounting for as much of the young child's play as highly social, cooperative interaction. We now understand that it is the TYPE, not the amount, of solitary and parallel play that changes during early childhood. In studies of preschoolers' play in Taiwan and the United States, researchers rated the COGNITIVE MATURITY of nonsocial, parallel, and cooperative play by applying the categories shown in Table 15.11. Within each of Parten's play types, older children engaged in more cognitively mature behavior than younger children.
Often parents wonder whether a preschool who spends large amounts of time playing alone is developing normally. But only CERTAIN TYPES of nonsocial activity—-aimless wandering, hovering near peers, and functional play involving immature, repetitive motor action—-are cause for concern. Children who behave reticently, by watching peers without playing, are usually temperamentally inhibited——high in social fearfulness. And children who engage in solitary, repetitive behavior (banging blocks, making a doll jump up and down) tend to be immature, impulsive youngsters who find it difficult to regulate anger and aggression. In the classroom, both reticent and impulsive children experience peer ostracism, with boys at greater risk for rejection than girls
But other preschoolers with low rates of peer interaction are not socially anxious or impulsive. They simply prefer to play alone, and their solitary activities are positive and constructive. Teachers encourage such play by setting out art materials, books, puzzles, and building blocks. Children who spend much time at these activities are usually well-adjusted youngsters who, when they do play with peers, show socially skilled behavior. Still, a few preschoolers who engage in such age-appropriate solitary play——again, more often boys——are rebuffed by peers. Perhaps because quiet play is inconsistent with the "masculine" gender role, boys who engage in it are at risk for negative reactions from both parents and peers and, eventually, for adjustment problems. As noted in Chapter 6, sociodramatic play——an advanced form of cooperative play——becomes especially common during the preschool years and supports cognitive, emotional, and social development. In joint make-believe, preschoolers act out and respond to one another's pretend feelings. They also explore and gain control of fear-arousing experiences when they play doctor or pretend to search for monsters in a magical forest. As a result, they can better understand others' feelings and regulate their own. Finally, to create and manage complex plots, preschoolers must resolve their disputes through negotiation and compromise. With age, preschoolers' disagreements center less on toys and other resources and more on differences of opinion——-an indication of their expanding capacity to consider others' attitudes and ideas.
When formal schooling begins, children are exposed to agemates who vary in many ways, including achievement, ethnicity, religion, interests, and personality. Contact with a diversity of peers strengthens school-age children's awareness of a multiplicity of viewpoints. Peer communication, in turn, profits from improved perspective taking. Children of this age can better interpret others' emotions and intentions and take them into account in pee dialogues. They are also aware of the value of emotional display rules in facilitating social interaction. And school-age children's ability to understand the complementary roles of several players in relation to a set of rules permits the transition to rule-oriented games.
School-age children apply their emotional and social knowledge to peer communication. Recall from Chapter 12 that sharing, helping, and other prosocial acts increase in middle childhood. In addition, younger and older children differ in how they help agemates. Kindergarteners move right in and give assistance, regardless of whether it is desired. In contrast, school-age children offer to help and wait for a peer to accept before behaving prosocially. In adolescence, agemates work on tasks more cooperatively——-staying on task, freely exchanging ideas, asking for opinions, and acknowledging one another's contributions.
Another form of peer interaction emerges in the preschool years and peaks during middle childhood, when it accounts for 10 percent of free-play behavior. While watching children at play in a city park or a schoolyard, notice how they occasionally wrestle, roll, hit, and run after one another, alternating roles while smiling and laughing. This friendly chasing and play-fighting is called ROUGH-AND-TUMBLE PLAY. Children in many cultures engage in it with peers whom they like especially well. After a rough-and-tumble episode, they continue interacting rather than separating, as they do after an aggressive encounter.
Children's rough-and-tumble play resembles the social behavior of many other young mammals. It seems to originate in parents' physical play with babies, especially fathers' play with sons. And it is more common among boys, probably because prenatal exposure to androgens predisposes boys toward active play. Boys' rough-and-tumble largely consists of playful wrestling, restraining, and hitting, whereas girls tend to engage in running and chasing, with only brief physical contact. In our evolutionary past, rough-and-tumble play may have been important for the development of fighting skill. It also may help children establish a DOMINANCE HIERARCHY——a stable ordering of group members that predicts who will win when conflict arises. Observations of arguments, threats, and physical attacks between children reveal a consistent lineup of winners and losers that becomes increasingly stable in middle childhood and adolescence, especially among boys. Once school-age children establish a dominance hierarchy, hostility is rare. Children seem to use play-fighting as a safe context to assess the strength of a peer before challenging that peer's dominance.
As adolescents reach physical maturity, individuals differences in strength become apparent, and rough-and-tumble play declines. When it does occur, its meaning changes: Adolescent boys' rough-and-tumble is linked to aggression. After becoming embroiled in a bout, players "cheat" and hurt their opponent. In explanation, boys often say that they are retaliating, apparently to reestablish dominance. And boy-girl rough-and-tumble, though infrequent, rises slightly at adolescence, perhaps serving as a means through which teenagers playfully initiate heterosexual interaction.
Over middle childhood, children interact increasingly often with peers until, by mid-adolescence, they spend more time with peers than with any other social partners. Common interests, novel play activities, and opportunities to interact on an equal footing make peer interaction highly enjoyable. As adolescence draws to a close, most young people are proficient at many complex social behaviors.
Children first acquire skills for interacting with peers within the family. Parents influence children's peer sociability both DIRECTLY, through attempts to influence children's peer relations, and INDIRECTLY, through their child-reading practices and play behaviors. Situational factors that adults can influence, such as the age mix of children, also make a difference, as do cultural values.
Outside preschool, child care, and kindergarten, young children depend on parents to help them establish rewarding peer associations. Preschoolers whose parents frequently arrange informal peer play activities tend to have larger peer networks and to be more socially skilled. In providing play opportunities, parents show children how to initiate peer contacts and encourage them to be good "hosts" who consider their playmates' needs.
Parents also influence children's peer interaction skills by offering guidance on how to act toward others. Their skillful suggestions for managing conflict, discouraging teasing, and entering a play group are associated with preschoolers' social competence and peer acceptance. As children get older and acquire effective social skills, they need less parental advice. In middle childhood and adolescence, heavy provision of parental guidance is usually aimed at children with peer-relationship problems.
Recall from Chapter 14 that during middle childhood and adolescence, parental monitoring of their child's activities protects school-age children and adolescents from antisocial involvements. Young people's disclosure of information is vital for successful monitoring. The extent to which adolescents tell parents about their whereabouts and companions is an especially strong predictor of adjustment. Such disclosure, however, depends on a history of consistent monitoring and a well-functioning parent-child relationship, which (as we will see) also promotes positive peer relations.
Many parenting behaviors not directly aimed at promoting peer sociability nevertheless influence it. For example, inductive discipline and authoritative parenting offer a firm foundation for competence in relating to agemates. In contrast, coercive behavioral control, including harsh physical punishment, and psychological control engender poor social skills and aggressive behavior.
Furthermore, secure attachments to parents are linked to more responsive, harmonious peer interactions, larger peer networks, and warmer, more supportive friendships throughout childhood and adolescence. The sensitive, emotionally expressive parental communication that contributes to attachment security may be responsible. In one study, researchers observed parent-child conversations and rated them for the strength of the mother-child bond, as indicated by exchanges of positive emotion and parental sensitivity to the child's statements and feelings. Kindergarteners who were more emotionally "connected" to their mothers displayed more empathy and prosocial behavior toward their classmates. This empathic orientation, in turn, was linked to more positive peer ties.
Parent-child play seems particularly effective for promoting peer interaction skills. During play, parents interact with their child on a "level playing field," much as peers do. Highly involved, emotionally positive, and cooperative play between parents and preschoolers is associated with more positive peer relations. And perhaps because parents play more with children of their own sex, mothers' play is more strongly linked to daughters' competence, fathers' play to sons' competence. Finally, the quality of parents' social networks is associated with children's social competence. In one study, parents who reported high-quality friendships had school-age children who interacted more favorably with friends. This relationship was stronger for girls, perhaps because girls spend more time near parents and have more opportunity to observe their parents' friends. Furthermore, overlap between parents' and adolescents' social networks——-frequent contact among teenagers' friends, their parents, and their friends' parents——is related to better school achievement and low levels of antisocial behavior. Under these conditions, other adults in parents' networks may promote parents' values and goals and monitor teenagers in their parents' absence.
When observed in age-graded settings, such as child-care centers, schools, and summer camps, children typically interact with others close in age. Yet in cultures where children are not segregated by age for schooling and recreation, cross-age interaction is common.
The theories of Piaget and Vygotsky, discussed in Chapter 6, suggest different benefits from same- versus mixed-age interaction. Piaget emphasized experiences with children equal in status who challenge one another's viewpoints, thereby promoting cognitive, social, and moral development. In contrast, Vygotsky believed that children profit from interacting with older, more capable peers, who model and encourage more advanced skills. Among preschoolers, younger children's play is more cognitively and socially mature in mixed-age classrooms than in single-age classrooms. Furthermore, as early as age 3 or 4, children can modify their behavior to fit the needs of a less advanced child, simplifying their communication and assuming more responsibility for a joint activity.
Nevertheless, the oldest school-age children in mixed-age settings prefer same-age companions, perhaps because they have more compatible interests and experience more cooperative interaction. Younger children's interaction with same-age partners is also more intense and harmonious, but they often turn to older peers because of their superior knowledge and exciting play ideas.
Children clearly profit from both same-age and mixed-age relationships. From interacting with equals, they learn to cooperate and resolve conflicts, and they develop vital moral understandings of reciprocity and justice. In mixed-age settings, younger children acquire new competencies from their older companions. And when more mature youngsters help their less mature counterparts, they practice nurturance, guidance and other prosocial behaviors.
Peer sociability in collectivist societies, which stress group harmony, takes different forms than in individualistic cultures. For example, children in India generally play in large groups, which requires high levels of cooperation. Much of their behavior is imitative, occurs in unison, and involves close physical contact. In a game called Bhatto Bhatto, children act out a script about a trip to the market, touching one another's elbows and hands as they pretend to cut and share a tasty vegetable. As another example, Chinese preschoolers——unlike American preschoolers, who tend to reject reticent classmates——are typically willing to include a quiet, reserved child in play. In Chapter 10, we saw that until recently, collectivist values, which discourage self-assertion, led to positive evaluations of shyness in China. Apparently, this benevolent attitude is still evident in the play behaviors of young Chinese children. Cultural beliefs about the importance of play also affect early peer associations. Caregivers who view play as mere entertainment are less likely to provide props or to encourage pretend than those who value its cognitive and social benefits. Preschool children of Korean-American parents, who emphasize task persistence as crucial for learning, spend less time than Caucasian-American children in joint make-believe and more time unoccupied and in parallel play.
Return to the description of children's daily lives in a Mayan village culture on page 273 in Chapter 6. Mayan parents do not promote children's play——yet Mayan children are socially competent. Perhaps Western-style sociodramatic play, with its elaborate materials and wide-ranging themes, is particularly important for social development in societies where the worlds of adults and children are distinctive than in village cultures where children participate in adult activities from an early age. In support of this view, observations of 2- to 6-year-olds in a Senagalese fishing village revealed that make-believe with peers was just as prevalent as in a comparison group of U.S. middle-SES agemates. Because sea fishing is too risky an activity for young children, the Senegalese preschoolers spent much time in their homes and yards apart from working adults. Their families also had sufficient resources to provide them with a rich array of play materials that fostered pretending.
In all societies, peer contact rises in adolescence, a trend that is strongest in industrialized nations, where young people spend most of each weekday with agemates in school. Teenagers also spend much out-of-class time together, more in some cultures than in others. For example, U.S. young people have about 50 hours of free time per week, Europeans about 45 hours, and East Asians about 33 hours. A shorter school year and less demanding academic standards, which lead American youths to devote much less time to schoolwork, account for this difference.
Children have encounters and relationships with many peers, but they prefer some over others. Beginning in early childhood, they form FRIENDSHIPS—-close relationships involving companionship in which each partner wants to be with the other. Observations of 1- and 2-year-olds reveal that they initiate play, exchange expressions of positive emotion, and engage in more complex interactions with selected, familiar peers. These early mutual relationships may lay the groundwork for deeper, more meaningful friendships in childhood and adolescence.
To study friendship, researchers ask the child or a knowledgeable adult to name friends and then check whether nominated friends return the choice. They also observe friendship interactions, comparing them with other peer relationships. And they interview children about what friendship means. Findings reveal that with age, children's ideas about friendship change, as do certain features of friendships. From the preschool years on, friendship contributes uniquely to children's emotional and social development. Jot down a description of what friendship means to you. You probably pictured a consensual relationship involving companionship, sharing, understanding each other's thoughts and feelings, and caring for and comforting each other in times of need. In addition, mature friendships endure over time and survive occasional conflicts. But to a child, friendship begins far more concretely, as pleasurable activity. With age, friendship evolves into a relationship based on mutual consideration and emotional satisfaction. Children's changing ideas about friendship follow a three-stage sequence, confirmed by both longitudinal and cross-sectional research.
1. Friendship as a Handy Playmate (About 4 to 7 Years) Preschoolers understand something about the uniqueness of friendship. They say that a friend is someone "who likes you," with whom you spend a lot of time playing, and with whom you share toys. But friendship does not yet have a long-term, enduring quality. Children at this stage say that a friendship can dissolve when one partner refuses to share, hits, or is not available to play. "Mark's my best friend," one 5-year-old would declare on days when the boys got along well. But when a dispute arose, he would reverse himself: "Mark, you're not my friend!"
2. Friendship as Mutual Trust and Assistance (About 8 to 10 Years) In middle childhood, friendship becomes more complex and psychologically based. Consider the following 8-year-old's ideas:

Why is Shelly your best friend? Because she helps me when I'm sad, and she shares.......What makes Shelly so special? I've known her longer, I sit next to her and got to know her better.......How come you like Shelly better than anyone else? She's done the most for me. She never disagrees, she never eats in front of me, she never walks away when I'm crying, and she helps me on my homework........How do you get someone to like you?..........If you're nice to (your friends), they'll be nice to you.
As these responses show, friendship has become a mutually agreed-on relationship in which children like each other's personal qualities and respond to each other's needs and desires. And once a friendship forms, TRUST becomes its defining feature. School-age children state that a good friendship is based on acts of kindness signifying that each person can be counted on to support the other. Consequently, older children regard violations of trust, such as not helping a friend who needs help, breaking promises, and gossiping behind a friend's back, as serious breaches of friendship——as Katy did in the chapter introduction. And rifts cannot be patched up simply by playing nicely after a conflict, as preschoolers and young school-age children do. Instead, apologies and explanations are necessary.

3. Friendship as Intimacy, Mutual Understanding, and Loyalty (11 to 15 Years and Older) When asked about the meaning of friendship, teenagers stress three characteristics. The most important is INTIMACY, or psychological closeness, which is supported by MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING of each other's values, beliefs, and feelings. In addition, more than younger children, teenagers want their friends to be LOYAL——to stick up for them and not to leave them for somebody else.
As friendship takes on these deeper features, adolescents regard it as formed over time by "getting to know someone." In addition, they view friends as important in relieving psychological distress, such as loneliness, sadness, and fear. Because true mutual understanding implies forgiveness, only an extreme falling out can terminate a friendship. Here is how one teenager described his best friendship:

Well, you need someone you can tell anything to, all kinds of things that you don't want to spread around. That's why you're someone's friend. Is that why Jimmy is your friend? Because he can keep a secret? Yes, and we like the same kinds of things. We speak the same language. My mother says we're two peas in a pod...... Do you ever get mad at Jimmy? Not really. What if he did something that got you really mad? He'd still be my best friend. I'd tell him what he did wrong and maybe he'd understand. I could be wrong too, it depends.
Changes in children's thinking about friendships are linked to characteristics of their real friendships. Let's look closely at friendship stability, interaction, and resemblance. As mutual trust and loyalty increase in importance, school-age children's friendships become more selective. Preschoolers say they have lots of friends——-sometimes, everyone in their class! But by age 8 or 9, children name only a handful of good friends. As teenagers focus on friendship quality, this narrowing continues. Number of best friends declines from four to six in early adolescence to only one or two in early adulthood. Friendships are remarkably stable at all ages, but for younger children, stability is largely a function of the constancy of social environments, such as school and neighborhood. Context continues to be influential at older ages, with friendships spanning several situations——-such as school, religious institution, and children of parents' friends——more likely to persist. At the same time, stability increases with age as friendships become psychologically based and, therefore, higher in such positive features as intimacy, self-disclosure, support, and prosocial behavior. From fourth grade through high school, about 50 to 70 percent endure over the course of a school year, and some for several years, although they often undergo temporary shifts in the strength of each partner's commitment. In middle or junior high school, varying rates of pubertal development, encounters with new peers, and romantic interests often lead to a temporary period of greater change in choice of friends.
At all ages, friends have special ways of interacting. Preschoolers, for example, give twice as much reinforcement——-greetings, praise, and compliance——-to children they identify as friends, and they also receive more from them. Friends are more emotionally expressive, talking, laughing, and looking at one another more often than nonfriends do. Spontaneity, intimacy, and sensitivity characterize rewarding friendships very early, although children are not able to express these ideas until much later.
A more mature understanding of friendship seems to spark greater prosocial behavior between friends. When working on a task together, school-age friends help, share, refer to each other's comments, and spend more time focused than preschool friends do. Cooperation, generosity, mutual affirmation, and self-disclosure continue to rise into adolescence——-trends that may reflect greater effort and skill at preserving the relationship and increased sensitivity to a friend's needs and desires. Adolescents also are less possessive of their friends than they were in childhood. Desiring a certain degree of autonomy for themselves, they recognize that friends need this, too.
Friends not only behave more prosocially but also disagree and compete with each other more than nonfriends. Because children regard friendship as based on equality, they seem especially concerned about losing a contest to a friend. Also, when children hold differing opinions, friends are more likely to voice them. At the same time, school-age and adolescent friends use negotiation to resolve conflicts more often than nonfriends do. Friends seem to realize that close relationships can survive disagreements if both parties are secure in their liking for each other. Clearly, friendship provides an important context in which children learn to tolerate criticism and resolve disputes.
The impact of friendships on children's development depends on the nature of those friends. Children who bring kindness and compassion to their friendships strengthen one another's prosocial tendencies and form more lasting ties. But when aggressive children make friends, the relationship is often riddled with hostile interaction and is at risk for breakup, especially when just one member of the pair is aggressive. Aggressive girls' friendships are high in self-disclosure but full of relational hostility, including jealousy, conflict, and betrayal——-techniques used to manipulate associations with others. Aggressive boys' friendships involve frequent expressions of anger, coercive statements, physical attacks, and enticements to rule-breaking behavior, as well as relational aggression. These findings indicate that the social problems of aggressive children operate within their closest peer ties.
The value adolescents attach to feeling "in sync" with their friends suggests that friends will become increasingly similar in attitudes and values with age. Actually, the attributes on which friends are most alike throughout childhood and adolescence are age, sex, ethnicity, and SES. But from middle childhood on, friends also resemble one another in personality (sociability, inattention/hyperactivity, aggression, depression), popularity, academic achievement, prosocial behavior, and judgments (including biased perceptions) or other people. And in adolescence, friends tend to be alike in identity status, educational aspirations, political beliefs, and willingness to try drugs and engage in lawbreaking acts. Over time, they become more similar in these ways. Children and adolescents probably choose companions like themselves in age, sex, and ethnicity to increase the supportiveness of friendship. In-group favoritism and out-group prejudice may also influence these choices. How do children identify peers who are similar to themselves in other ways? According to some researchers, they go on "shopping expeditions" in their social networks, trying out relationships and sustaining those that "feel right" As friends spend more time together, they socialize one another, becoming increasingly alike in attitudes, values, school grades, and social behavior.
Nevertheless, as young people enter a wider range of school and community settings, they choose some friends who differ from themselves. For a time, young teenagers sacrifice similarly in favor of admiration for superficial features-whether a potential friend is popular, physically attractive, or athletically skilled. And early adolescents of both sexes are attracted to high-status, aggressive boys as friends, a trend that contributes to a rise in antisocial behavior and, for girls, can lead to negative experiences in their first dating relationships. In other instances, a friend's favorable traits are influential. In one study, low-achieving 9- to 11-year-olds who befriended a high-achieving classmate declined in academic self-esteem (because of social comparison) but nevertheless improved in academic performance. The task of forging a personal identity may also lead adolescents to seek friends with differing attributes and values, as a means of exploring new perspectives within the security of a compatible relationship. Furthermore, teenagers often judge commonality in certain attributes as more important than in others. For example, compared with Caucasian-American friends, African-American and Hispanic friends place greater emphasis on shared ethnicity and less on similarity in academic achievement. Nevertheless, Hispanic frequently view higher-achieving friends as a source of pride. Such friends play key roles in spurring improved school performance and higher educational aspirations. Finally, children and adolescents are more likely to form friendships with agemates or other ethnicities when they attend ethnically diverse schools and live in integrated neighborhoods. As young people form comfortable, lasting close relationships, they come to view ethnically different peers as individuals instead of through the lens of stereotypes.
In middle childhood, children start to report a consistent sex difference in friendships: Emotional closeness is more common between girls than between boys. Girls, who are more exclusive in their friendships, frequently get together to "just talk," and their exchanges contain more self-disclosure (sharing of innermost thoughts and feelings) and mutually supportive statements. In contrast, boys more often gather for an activity——-usually sports or other competitive games. Boys' discussions usually focus on recognition and mastery issues, such as achievements in sports and school, and involve more competition and conflict. Because of gender-role expectations, girls' friendships typically focus on communal concerns, boys' on achievement and status. Boys do form close friendship ties, but the quality of their friendships is more variable. Gender identity plays a role: Androgynous boys are as likely as girls to form intimate same-sex ties, whereas highly "masculine" boys are less likely to do so.
Friendship closeness has costs as well as benefits. When friends focus on their deeper thoughts and feelings, they tend to CORUMINATE, or repeatedly mull over problems and negative emotions. Corumination, while contributing to high friendship quality, also triggers anxiety and depression——-symptoms more common among girls than among boys. And when conflict arises between intimate friends, more potential exists for one party to harm the other through relational aggression——for example, by divulging sensitive personal information to outsiders.
Partly for this reason, girls' closest same-sex friendships tend to be of shorter duration than boys'. Also, whereas boys often resolve conflicts by minimizing their importance ("It's no big deal"), this strategy tends to result in friendship break-up among girls. When friendships are emotionally intense, minimizing rather than being "up front" about tensions in the relationship may restore superficial harmony while the underlying discontent lingers, making the friendship less stable.
In early adolescence, young people who are either very popular or very unpopular are more likely to have other-sex friends. Teenagers who are not accepted by their own sex sometimes look to the other sex for friendships. Girls have more other-sex friends than boys, a difference that widens with age as teenage girls form friendships with boys who are somewhat older. Among boys without same-sex friends, having an other-sex friend is associated with feelings of competence. But among girls who lack same-sex friends, other-sex friendships are linked to less positive well-being. Perhaps these girls are especially likely to befriend boys with negative traits, such as aggression.
Warm childhood and adolescent friendships that are high in trust, intimate sharing, and support contribute to many aspects of psychological health and competence into early adulthood, for several reasons:

Close friendships provide opportunities to explore the self and develop a deep understanding of another. Through open, honest communication, friends become sensitive to each other's strengths and weaknesses, needs and desires——-a process that supports that development of self-concept, perspective taking, and identity.

Close friendships provide a foundation for future intimate relationships. Look again at Figure 15.2, and you will see that self-disclosure to friends precedes disclosure to romantic partners. Conservations with teenage friends about sexuality and romance, along with the intimacy of friendship itself, may help adolescents establish and work out problems in romantic partnerships.

Close friendships help young people deal with the stresses of everyday life. By enhancing sensitivity to and concern for another, supportive, prosocial friendships promote empathy, sympathy, and prosocial behavior. As a result, they contribute to involvement in constructive youth activities, avoidance of antisocial acts, and psychological well-being. A rewarding friendship helps protect shy children from developing emotional and behavior problems. And adolescents experiencing family stress who have close friends show as high a level of well-being as children from better-functioning families.

Close friendships can improve attitudes toward and involvement in school. Close friendships promote good school adjustment, academically and socially, in both middle- and low-SES students. Children and adolescents who enjoy interacting with friends at school may begin to view all aspects of school life more positively.
Peer acceptance refers to likability——-the extent to which a child is viewed by a group of agemates, such as classmates, as a worthy social partner. Unlike friendship, peer acceptance is not a mutual relationship but a one-sided perspective, involving the group's view of an individual. Nevertheless, certain social skills that contribute to friendship also enhance peer acceptance. Better-accepted children tend to have more friends and more positive relationships with them. Like friendship, peer acceptance contributes uniquely to children's adjustment.
To assess peer acceptance, researchers usually use self-reports that measure SOCIAL PREFERENCES——for example, asking children and adolescents to identify classmates whom they "like very much" or "like very little" Another approach assesses SOCIAL PROMINENCE———young people's judgments of the peers most of their classmates admire. Only moderate correspondence exists between the classmates school-age children and adolescents identify as prominent (looked up to by many others) and those they say they personally prefer.
Children's self-reports yield four general categories of peer acceptance:

Popular children, who get many positive votes (are well-liked)
Rejected children, who get many negative votes (are disliked)
Controversial children, who receive many votes, both positive and negative (are both liked and disliked)
Neglected children, who are seldom mentioned, either positively or negatively

About two-thirds of students in a typical elementary school classroom fit one of these categories. The remaining one-third, who do not receive extreme scores, are average in peer acceptance.
Why is one child liked while another is rejected? A wealth of research reveals that social behavior plays a powerful role.

Popular children. Although many popular children are kind and considerate, others are admired for their socially sophisticated yet belligerent behavior. Two subtypes of popular children exist.
Most are POPULAR-PROSOCIAL CHILDREN, who combine academic and social competence. They perform well in school, communicate with peers in friendly and cooperative ways, and solve social problems constructively.
A smaller subtype, POPULAR-ANTISOCIAL CHILDREN, which emerges in late childhood and early adolescence, includes "tough" boys——-athletically skilled but poor students who cause trouble and defy adult authority——-and relationally aggressive boys and girls who enhance their own status by ignoring, excluding, and spreading rumors about other children. Despite their aggressiveness, peers often view these youths as "cool," perhaps because of their athletic abilities and sophisticated but devious social skills.
Although peer admiration gives popular-antisocial children some protection against lasting adjustment difficulties, their antisocial acts require intervention. With age, peers like these high-status, aggressive youths less and less, a trend that is stronger for relationally aggressive girls. The more socially prominent and controlling these girls become, the more they engage in relational aggression. Eventually peers may condemn their nasty tactics and reject them.
Rejected children display a wide range of negative social behaviors. But as with popular children, not all of these disliked children look the same.
REJECTED-AGGRESSIVE CHILDREN, the largest subtype, show high rates of conflict, physical and relational aggression, and hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive behavior. They are usually deficient perspective takers, misinterpreting the innocent behaviors of peers as hostile, blaming others for their social difficulties, and acting on their angry feelings. Compared with popular-aggressive children, rejected-aggressive children are more extremely antagonistic. Rather than using aggression skillfully to attain status, rejected-aggressive children display blatantly hostile, acting-out behavior, which triggers scorn and avoidance in their peers.
Consistent with the mixed peer opinion they engender, controversial children display a blend of positive and negative social behaviors. They are hostile and disruptive, but they also engage in positive, prosocial acts. Even though some peers dislike them, they have qualities that protect them from exclusion. They are usually assertive and dominant, have as many friends as popular children, and are happy with their peer relationships. But like their popular-antisocial and rejected-aggressive counterparts, they often bully agemates to get their way and engage in calculated relational aggression to sustain their dominance. The social status of controversial children often changes over time as agemates react to their mixed behavior.
Perhaps the most surprising finding on peer acceptance is that neglected children, once thought to be in need of treatment, are usually well-adjusted. Although they engage in low rates of interaction and are considered shy by their classmates, most are just as socially skilled as average children. They do not report feeling unhappy about their social life. And when they want to, they can break away from their usual, preferred pattern of playing alone, cooperating well with peers and forming positive l, stable friendships. Consequently, neglected status (like controversial status) is often temporary. Neglected, socially competent children remind us that an outgoing, gregarious personality style is not the only path to emotional well-being. Nevertheless, a few neglected children are socially anxious and poorly skilled and, thus, at risk for peer rejection.
A variety of interventions exist to improve the peer relations and psychological adjustment of rejected children. Most involve coaching, modeling, and reinforcing positive social skills, such as how to initiate interaction with a peer, cooperate in play, and respond to another child with friendly emotion and approval. Several of these programs have produced gains in social competence and peer acceptance still present from several weeks to a year later. Combining social skills training with other treatments increases their effectiveness. Rejected children often are poor students, and their low academic self-esteem magnifies their negative reactions to teachers and classmates. Intensive academic tutoring improves both school achievement and social acceptance.
Still another approach focuses on training in perspective taking and social problem solving. But many rejected-aggressive children are unaware of their poor social skills and do not take responsibility for their social failures. Rejected-withdrawn children, in contrast, are likely to develop a LEARNED-HELPLESS approach to peer acceptance——-concluding, after repeated rebuffs, that they will never be liked. Both types of rejected children need help attributing their peer difficulties to internal, changeable causes.
As rejected children gain in social skills, teachers must encourage peers to alter their negative opinions. Accepted children often interpret the ambiguous behaviors of disliked agemates negatively, and they selectively recall their negative acts while overlooking their positive ones. Consequently, even in the face of contrary evidence, rejected children's negative reputations often persist. Teachers' praise and expressions of liking can modify peer judgments. And building a positive classroom climate through whole-class meetings in which children share in creating classroom rules——-including prohibiting exclusion——-is also helpful.
Finally, because rejected children's socially incompetent behaviors often originate in a poor fit between the child's temperament and parenting practices, interventions focusing on the child alone may not be sufficient. As early as the preschool years, rejected children engage in similarly inept communication with parents and with peers. Without interventions directed at improving the quality of parent-child interaction, rejected children will continue to practice poor interpersonal skills at home and, as a result, may soon return to their old behaviors patterns.
Watch children in the schoolyard or neighborhood, and notice how they often gather in groups of three to a dozen or more. In what ways are members of the same group noticeably alike?
By the end of middle childhood, children display a strong desire for group belonging. They form PEER GROUPS, collectives that generate unique values and standards for behavior and a social structure of leaders and followers. Whereas friendships contribute to the development of trust, sensitivity, and intimacy, peer groups provide practice in cooperation, leadership, followership, and loyalty to collective goals. Through these experiences, children experiment with and learn about the functioning of social organizations.

Peer groups organize on the basis of proximity (being in the same classroom) and similarity in sex, ethnicity, academic achievement, popularity, and aggression. When groups are tracked for three to six weeks, membership changes very little. When they are followed for a year or longer, substantial change can occur, depending on whether children are reshuffled into different classrooms. When children remain together, 50 to 70 percent of groups consist mostly of the same children from year to year. The practices of these informal groups lead to a "peer culture" that typically involves a specialized vocabulary, dress code, and place to "hang out." As children develop these exclusive associations, the codes of dress and behavior that grow out of them become more broadly influential. Schoolmates who deviate——-by "kissing up" to teachers, wearing the wrong kind of shoes, or tattling on classmates—-are often rebuffed, becoming targets of critical glances and comments. These customs bind peers together, creating a sense of group identity.
School-age children evaluate a group's decision to exclude a peer in complex ways. Most view exclusion as wrong, even when they see themselves as different from the excluded child. And with age, children are less likely to endorse excluding someone because of unconventional appearance or behavior. Girls especially, regard exclusion as unjust, perhaps because they experience it more often then boys. But when a peer threatens group functioning, by acting disruptively or by lacking skills to participate in a valued group activity (such as sports), both boys and girls say that exclusion is justified——a perspective that strengthens with age.
Despite these sophisticated understandings, as we have seen in this and previous chapters, children do exclude unjustly, often using relationally aggressive tactics. Peer groups——at the instigation of socially prominent leaders, who show off their power through skillfully aggressive acts——-frequently oust no-longer- "respected" children. Some of these cast-outs, whose own previous hostility toward outsiders reduces their chances of being included elsewhere, turn to other low-status peers with poor social skills. Socially anxious children, when ousted, often become increasingly peer-avoidant and thus more isolated. In either case, opportunities to acquire socially competent behavior diminish.
As excluded children's class participation declines, their academic achievement suffers. And some aggressive children——-especially popular boys——link up with popular, nonaggresive agemates. In these groups, mild-mannered children may accept and even support the antisocial acts of their dominant, antisocial associates, who pick fights with other groups or bully weaker children. Consequently, teachers and counselors must target both antisocial and mixed peer groups to reduce peer aggression.
School-age children's desire for group belonging also can be satisfied through formal group ties such as scouting, 4-H, and religious youth groups, where adult involvement holds in check the negative behaviors associated with children's informal peer groups. And through working on joint projects and helping in their communities, children gain in social and moral maturity.
What influences the sorting of teenagers into cliques and crowds? Crowd affiliations are linked to strengths in adolescents' self-concepts, which reflect their abilities and interests. Ethnicity also plays a role. Minority teenagers who associate with an ethnically defines crowd, as opposed to a crowd reflecting their abilities and interests, may be motivated by discrimination in their school or neighborhood. Alternatively, they may have joined the crowd as an expression of a strong ethnic identity. Family factors are important, too. In a study of 8000 ninth to twelfth graders, adolescents who described their parents as authoritative tended to be members of "brain," "jock," and "popular" groups that accepted both adult and peer reward systems. In contrast, boys with permissive parents aligned themselves with "partyers" and "burnouts," suggesting lack of identification with adult reward systems.
These findings indicate that many peer-group values are extensions of values acquired at home. Once adolescents join a clique or crowd, it can modify their beliefs and behaviors. In research on crowd affiliation and health-risk behaviors, brains were the lowest risk takers, populars and jocks were intermediate, and nonconformists and burnouts were the highest, often engaging in unhealthy eating, substance use, and unprotected sex and agreeing that they would "do anything on a dare" But the positive impact of having academically and socially skilled peers is greatest for teenagers whose own parents are authoritative. And the negative impact of associating with antisocial, drug-using agemates is strongest for teenagers whose parents use less effective child-rearing styles. In sum, family experiences affect the extent to which adolescents become like other group members over time.
As interest in dating increases, boys' and girls' cliques come together. Mixed-sex cliques provide boys and girls with models for how to interact with the other sex and a chance to do so without having to be intimate. Gradually, the larger group divides into couples, several of whom spend time going out together. By late adolescence, when boys and girls feel comfortable enough about approaching each other directly, the mixed-sex clique disappears.
Crowds also decline in importance. As adolescents settle on personal values and goals, they no longer feel a need to broadcast, through dress, language, and preferred activities, who they are. From tenth to twelfth grade, about half of young people switch crowds, mostly in favorable directions. "Brains" and "normal" crowds grow and deviant crowds lose members as teenagers focus more on their future.
The hormonal changes of puberty increase sexual interest, but cultural expectations determine when and how dating begins. Asian youths start dating later and have fewer dating partners than young people in Western societies, which tolerate and even encourage early romantic involvements from middle school on. At age 12 to 14, these relationships are usually casual, lasting only five months on average. By age 16, they have become steady relationships, typically continuing for about two years. This change reflects transformations in teenagers'dating goals: Early adolescents tend to mention recreation and achieving peer status as reasons for dating. By late adolescence, as young people are ready for greater intimacy, they seek dating partners who offer personal compatibility, companionship, affection, and social support.
The achievement of intimacy between dating partners typically lags behind that between friends. And positive relationships with parents and friends contribute to the development of warm romantic ties, whereas conflict-ridden parent-adolescent and peer relationships forecast hostile hostile dating interactions. Recall from Chapter 10 that according to ethological theory, early attachment bonds lead to an INTERNAL WORKING MODEL, or set of expectations about attachment figures, that guides later close relationships. Consistent with this idea, secure attachment to parents in infancy and childhood——-together with recollections of that security in adolescence——predicts quality of teenagers' and young adults' friendships and romantic ties. In a study of high school seniors, secure models of attachment and supportive interactions with parents predicted secure models of friendship, which, in turn, were related to the security of romantic relationships.
Perhaps because early adolescent dating relationships are shallow and stereotyped, early, frequent dating is related to drug use, delinquency, and poor academic achievement. These factors, along with a history of uninvolved parenting and aggression in family and peer relationships, increase the likelihood of dating violence. About 10 to 20 percent of adolescents are physically or sexually abused by dating partners, with boys and girls equally likely to report being victims, and violence by one partner is often returned by the other. Mental health consequences are severe, including increased anxiety, depression, suicide attempts, risky sexual behavior, and——in girls—-unhealthy weight control (vomiting and use of laxatives. Furthermore, whereas early-adolescent boys who date gain in status among same-sex peers, girls often experience conflict due to competition and jealousy of other girls. For all these reasons, sticking with group activities, such as parties and dances, before becoming involved with a steady boyfriend or girlfriend is best for young teenagers.
Gay and lesbian youths face special challenges in initiating and maintaining visible romances. Their first dating relationships seem to be short-lived and to involve little emotional commitment, but for reasons that differ from those of heterosexuals: They fear peer harassment and rejection. Recall from Chapter 5 that because of intense prejudice, homosexual adolescents often retreat into heterosexual dating. In addition, many have difficulty finding a same-sex partner because their gay and lesbian peers have not yet come out. Often their first contacts with other sexual-minority youths occur in support groups, where they are free to date publicly and can discuss concerns about coming out.
As long as it does not begin too soon, dating provides lessons in cooperation, etiquette, and dealing with people in a wide range of situations. Among older teenagers, close romantic ties promote sensitivity, empathy, self-esteem, social support, and identity development. In addition, teenagers' increasing capacity for interdependence and compromise within dating probably enhances the quality of other peer relationships.
Still, about half of first heterosexual romances do not survive graduation, and those that do usually become less satisfying. Because young people are still forming their identities, high school couples often find that they have little in common later. Nevertheless, warm, caring romantic ties in adolescence can have long-term implications. They are positively related to gratifying, committed relationships in early adulthood.
These figures reveal that each week, U.S. preschoolers spend about 10 to 18 hours, school-age children about 24 hours, and adolescents about 32 hours watching TV. When we consider these figures, children and adolescents devote more time to TV than to most other waking activities, including parent and peer interaction, physical activity, computer use, homework and reading. And when quantity of viewing during school holidays and summer vacations is factored in, the typical child's annual TV viewing comes close to, and the adolescent's exceeds, among of time spent in school.
Children vary in their attraction to television. From early childhood on, boys watch slightly more than girls. Low-SES, African-American, and Hispanic children also are more frequent viewers, and they are more likely to live in homes where the TV is left on most of the time, even if no one is watching. For many such families, perhaps few alternative, affordable forms of entertainment are available in their neighborhoods. Also parents with limited education are more likely to engage in practices that heighten TV viewing, including eating family meals in front of the set and failing to limit children's TV access.
About one-third of U.S. preschoolers and 70 percent of school-age children and adolescents have a TV set in their bedroom; these children spend from 40 to 90 more minutes per day watching than agemates without one. And if parents watch a lot of TV, their children usually do, too. Extensive TV viewing is associated with family, peer, and health difficulties, perhaps because highly stressed parents and children use it as an escape.
Since the 1950s, researchers and public citizens have been concerned about television's influence on the attitudes and behaviors of young viewers. Most studies address the impact of TV violence. Others focus on the power of TV to teach undesirable gender and ethnic stereotypes and consumerism. At the same time, research confirms TV's potential for enhancing children's prosocial behavior.
In the United States, 57 percent of TV programs between 6 A.M. and 11 P.M. contain violent scenes, often portraying repeated physically aggressive acts that go unpunished. Victims of TV violence are rarely shown experiencing serious harm, and few programs condemn violence or depict other ways of solving problems. In reality TV shows, verbally and relationally aggressive acts are particularly frequent. And violent content is 9 percent above average in children's programming, with cartoons being the most violent.
Reviewers of thousands of studies——using a wide variety of research designs, methods, and participants from diverse cultures——have concluded that TV violence increases the likelihood of hostile thoughts and emotions and of verbally, physically, and relationally aggressive behavior. Even a brief dose has immediate effects: In laboratory research, 15 minutes of mildly violent programming heightened aggression in at least one-fourth of viewers. Although young people of all ages are susceptible, preschool and young school-age children are especially likely to imitate TV violence because they believe that much TV fiction is real and accept what they see uncritically.
Violent programming not only creates short-term difficulties in parent and peer relations but also has lasting negative consequences. In several longitudinal studies, time spent watching TV in childhood and early adolescence predicted aggressive behavior (including seriously violent acts) in late adolescence and early adulthood, after other factors linked to TV viewing (such as prior child and parent aggression, IQ, parent education, family income, and neighborhood crime) were controlled. Aggressive children and adolescents have a greater appetite for TV and other media violence. And boys devote more time to violent media than girls, in part because of male-oriented themes of conquest and adventure and use of males as lead characters. Even in nonaggressive children, violent TV sparks hostile thoughts and behavior; its impact is simply less intense.
Furthermore, television violence "hardens" children to aggression, making them more willing to tolerate it in others. Heavy viewers believe that there is much more violence in society than there actually is——an effect that is especially strong for children who perceive televised aggression to be relevant to their own lives. As these responses indicate, exposure to violent TV modifies children's attitudes toward social reality so that they increasingly match TV images.
The marketing industry aimed at selling products to youths—-toys, games, foods, clothing, and a host of other items——has exploded, exposing U.S. children and adolescents to tens of thousands of TV commercials each year. TV ads are rife with gender stereotypes——depicting toys and other products as gender-specific, boys as active and competitive, girls as calm and quiet, and men and women in stereotypical roles. By age 3, children can distinguish an obvious TV ad from regular programming by its loudness, fast-paced action, and sound effects. But because many children's shows contain characters and props that are themselves products (dolls, puppets, action figures, and their accessories), the boundary between programs and commercials is blurred. Furthermore, preschoolers and young elementary school children seldom grasp the selling purpose of TV ads; they think that commercials aim to sell, and by age 11, they realize that advertisers will resort to clever techniques to achieve goals. Nevertheless, even older children and adolescents find many commercials alluring. And parents often underestimate the influence of TV advertising on their children.
Research suggests that heavy bombardment of children with advertising contributes to a variety of child and youth problems, including family stress, overweight and obesity, materialism, and substance use. In recent surveys of adults that included many parents, over 90 percent reported that youth-directed ads greatly increase children's nagging of parents to buy items, giving rise to family conflict. Furthermore, the greater adolescents' exposure to cigarette and alcohol ads—-often designed to appeal to them through youthful characters, upbeat music, and party scenes—-the more likely they are to smoke and drink.
Television that includes acts of cooperating, helping, and comforting can increase children's prosocial behavior. In one study, researchers asked more than 500 second to sixth graders to name their favorite educational TV shows and say what they learned from them. The children not only named many prosocial programs but also accurately described the lessons the programs conveyed. Much TV, however, mixes prosocial and antisocial messages. Prosocial programs promote children's kind and helpful acts only when they are free of violent content.
Since the early days of television, educators have been interested in its potential for strengthening academic skills, especially among low-SES children. Sesame Street,?especially, was created to foster children's learning. It uses lively visual and sound effects to stress basic literacy and number concepts and puppet and human characters to teach general knowledge, emotional and social understanding, and social skills. Today, Sesame Street is broadcast in 140 countries, making it the most widely viewed children's program in the world.
Time devoted to watching children's educational programs is associated with gains in early literacy and math skills and to academic progress in elementary school. Consistent with these findings, one study reported a link between preschool viewing of Sesame Street and other similar educational programs and getting higher grades, reading more books, and placing more value on achievement in high school
Sesame Street has modified its previous format of presenting quick, disconnected bits of information in favor of more leisurely episodes with a clear story line. Children's programs with slow-paced action and easy-to-follow narratives, such as Arthur and friends, The Magic School Bus, and Wishbone, lead to more elaborate make-believe play in early childhood and to greater recall of program content and gains in vocabulary and reading skills in the early elementary school grades than programs that simply provide information. Narratively structured educational TV eases processing demands, freeing up children's working-memory resources for applying program content to real-life situations.
Does extensive TV exposure take children away from worthwhile activities? Persistent background TV distracts infants and preschoolers from their play, diminishing time spent in focused attention and involvement with a set of toys. Educational programs, as previously noted, are beneficial, but watching entertainment TV—-especially heavy viewing—-detracts from children's and adolescents' reading time, school success, and social experiences. In a survey of U.S. parents of over 48,000 6- to 17-year-olds, children and adolescents with a TV in their bedroom (a sign of especially high viewing time) were less likely to experience regular family meals, care about doing well in school, participate in extracurricular activities and community service, and get enough nightly sleep. They also more often displayed problematic social behaviors, including frequent arguing, disobedience, meanness to others, and sullenness or irritability.
Computers can have rich educational benefits. Children as young as age 3 enjoy computer activities and are able to use the mouse and type simple keyboard commands. In classrooms, small groups often gather around computers, and children more often collaborate in computer activities than in other pursuits.
In childhood and adolescence, nongame computer use is associated with literacy progress. Using the computer for word processing enables children to write freely,?experimenting with letters and words without having to struggle with handwriting. Because they can revise their text's meaning and style and also check their spelling, they worry less about making mistakes. As a result, their written products tend to be longer and of higher quality. Often children jointly plan, compose, and revise text, learning from one another.
As children get older, they increasingly use the computer for schoolwork, mostly to search the Web for information needed for school projects and to prepare written assignments——activities linked to improved academic achievement. The more low-SES middle-school students use home computers to access the Internet for information gathering (either for school or for personal interests), the better their subsequent reading achievement and school grades. Perhaps those who use the Web to find information also devote more time to reading, given that many Web pages are heavily text-based.
The learning advantages of computers raise concerns about a "digital divide" between SES and gender groups. Poverty-stricken children are least likely to have home computers and Internet access. And low-SES children who do have computer Internet access devote less time to it than their higher-SES counterparts, although they compensate to some degree by going online more often on their cell phones. By the end of elementary school, boys spend more time with computers than girls and use computers somewhat differently. Boys, for example, more often connect to the Internet to download games and music, trade and sell things, and create Web pages. Girls emphasize information gathering and social networking. Furthermore, in a survey of a large, nationally representative sample of Canadian 15- and 16-year-olds, boys more often than girls engaged in writing computer programs, analyzing data, and using spreadsheets and graphics programs. And many more boys than girls rated their computer skills as "excellent". Schools need to ensure that girls and economically disadvantaged students have many opportunities to benefit from the diverse, cognitively enriching aspects of computer technology.
Children and adolescents make extensive use of home computers for entertainment purposes, including video games. On average, U.S. school-age and adolescent boys spend nearly one-third of their computer time playing games——-three times as much as girls. Most video games emphasize speed and action in violent plots in which children advance by shooting at and evading enemies. Young people also play complex exploratory and adventure games, generally with themes of conquest and aggression, and sports games, such as football and soccer. And they enjoy simulation games in which players role-play characters in a virtual reality.
Speed-and-action video games foster selective attention and spatial skills in boys and girls alike. Extensive game playing, however, is negatively related to school performance. And an increasing number of studies show that playing violent games, like watching violent TV, increases hostility and aggression——especially in boys, who are more avid players than girls. Furthermore, video games are full of ethnic and gender stereotypes. Much less is known about the consequences of children's experiences in computerized virtual realities. Depending on their content, some virtual-reality games may foster complex narrative skills, imagination, and prosocial behavior, whereas others may promote uncooperativeness and antisocial acts. In research conducted in Japan and the United States, young people who more often played games high in modeling of helpfulness subsequently behaved more prosocially. Compared with infrequent users, "passionate" game players tend to be anxious, withdrawn young people who use games to escape from unpleasant family and school experiences. A few become addicted: They spend several hours a day playing, constantly think about playing when they are not, and believe they play too much but cannot cut back or stop. Excessive playing of fantasy games can blur the distinction between virtual and real life. When such games are violent, they may contribute——along with disengaged parents, antisocial peers, and alienation from school——to commission of heinous acts by at-risk young people. Columbine High School teenage murderers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were obsessed with a game called Doom, in which players try to rack up the most kills.
Teenagers frequently use cell phones and the Internet to communicate with friends. About 75 percent of U.S. 12- to 17-year-olds own a cell phone, a rare that has nearly doubled during the past decade. Cell-phone texting has become the preferred means of electronic interaction between teenage friends, with cell calling second, followed by social networking sites and instant messaging. Girls use cell phones to text and call their friends considerably more often then boys. These forms of online interaction seem to support friendship closeness. In several studies, as amount of online messaging between preexisting friends increased, so did young people's perceptions of intimacy in the relationship and sense of well-being. The effect is largely due to friends' online disclosure of personal information, such as worries, secrets, and romantic feelings. But about one-third of U.S. teenagers send more than 100 texts per day, half of whom send more than 200 (amounting to over 6,000 per month). The social consequences of such heavy, non-face-to-face interaction are unknown.
Although mostly communicating with friends they know, adolescents are also drawn to meeting new people over the Internet. Social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, which are now used by nearly three-fourths of U.S. teenagers, along with blogs, message boards, and chat rooms, open up vast alternatives beyond their families, schools, and communities. Through these online ties, young people explore central adolescent issues——sexuality, challenges in parent and peer relationships, and identity issues, including attitudes and values——-in contexts that grant anonymity and, therefore, may feel less threatening than similar conversations in the real world. Online interactions with strangers also offer some teenagers vital sources of support. Socially anxious youths, for example, may engage in Internet communication to relieve loneliness while practicing and improving their social skills. And teenagers suffering from depression, eating disorders, and other problems can access message boards where participants provide mutual assistance, including a sense of group belonging and acceptance.
Unlike the informal world of peer relations, the school is a formal institution designed to transmit the knowledge and skills children need to become productive members of society. By high school graduation, children in the developed world have spent, on average, about 14, 000 hours in school. As noted in earlier chapters, schools are vital forces in children's development, affecting their motivation to learn and modes of remembering, reasoning, problem solving, and social and moral understanding. How do schools exert such a powerful impact? Research looking at schools as complex social systems——class and student body size, educational philosophies, transitions from one school level to the next, teacher-student relationships, and grouping practices—-provides important insights.
The physical plants of all schools tend to be similar: Each has classrooms, hallways, a playground, and a lunchroom. But they vary widely in number of students in each class and in the school as a whole.
Is there an optimal class size? In a large field experiment, more than 6,000 Tennessee kindergarteners were randomly assigned to three class types: "small" (13 to 17 students), "regular" (22 to 25 students) with only a teacher, and regular with a teacher plus a full-time teacher's aide. These arrangements continued into third grade. Small-class students——-especially ethnic minority children——scored higher in reading and math achievement each year. Placing teachers' aides in regular-size classes had no impact. Rather, experiencing small classes from kindergarten through third grade predicted substantially higher achievement from fourth through ninth grades, after children had returned to regular-size classes. It also predicted greater likelihood of graduating from high school, particularly for low-SES students.
Many school administrators, however, argue that teacher quality is far more important than class size. In one study, small class size predicted elementary students' academic progress, even after diverse measures of teacher quality were controlled. Once again, classes of fewer than 17 students had a particularly powerful impact.
Why is small class size beneficial? With fewer children, teachers spend less time disciplining and more time teaching and giving individual attention. Also, children who learn in smaller groups show better concentration, higher-quality class participation, and more favors attitudes toward school. The impact of small class size on children's social behavior, however, is inconsistent and may depend on the extent to which teachers include social goals in their daily plans. Once students reach secondary school, where they move from class to class and have access to many activities outside classroom instruction, the relevant physical context is the school as a whole. Student body size profoundly affects school life. Members of smaller schools report more social support and caring as well as greater school engagement, as indicated by student attendance, academic preparedness, and satisfaction with classes and other school experiences. Furthermore, schools with 500 to 700 students or less have fewer people to ensure that clubs, sports events, and social activities will function. As a result, young people enter a greater number and variety of activities and hold more positions of responsibility and leadership. In large schools, where plenty of students are available to fill activity slots, a smaller percentage——-typically an elite who compete successfully for positions——are genuinely active.
Extracurricular participation focusing on the arts, community service, and vocational development promotes diverse aspects of adjustment, including improved academic performance, reduced antisocial behavior, more favorable self-esteem and initiative, and greater peer acceptance and concern for others. Benefits extend into adult life. Young adults who were more involved in high school clubs and organizations achieved more in their occupations and engaged in more community service, after other possibly explanatory factors (including SES, and academic performance) were controlled.
Adolescents with academic, emotional, and social problems are especially likely to profit from extracurricular pursuits that require them to take on meaningful roles and responsibilities. A special advantage of small schools is that potential dropouts are far more likely to join in activities, gain recognition, and remain until graduation. In large schools, reorganizations that create smaller "schools within schools" can have the same effect.
Each teacher brings to the classroom an educational philosophy that plays a major role in children's learning. Two philosophical approaches have received most research attention. They differ in what children are taught, in the way they are believed to learn, and in how their progress is evaluated.
In a TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM, the teacher is the sole authority for knowledge, rules, and decision making and does most of the talking. Students are relatively passive———listening, responding when called on, and completing teacher-assigned tasks. Their progress is evaluated by how well they keep pace with a uniform set of standards for their grade.

A CONSTRUCTIVIST CLASSROOM, in contrast, encourages students to construct their own knowledge. Although constructivist approaches vary, many are grounded in Piaget's view of children as active agents who reflect on and coordinate their own thoughts, rather than absorbing those of others. A glance inside a constructivist classroom reveals richly equipped learning centers, small groups and individuals solving self-chosen problems, and a teacher who guides and supports in response to children's needs. Students are evaluated by considering their progress in relation to their own prior development.
In the United States, the pendulum has swung back and forth between these two views. In the 1960s and early 1970s, constructivist classrooms gained in popularity. Then, as concern arose over the academic progress of children and youths, a "back to basics" movement arose, and classrooms returned to traditional instruction. This style, still prevalent today, has become increasingly pronounced as a result of the U.S. No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law in 2001. Because it places heavy pressure on teachers and school administrators to improve achievement test scores, it has narrowed the curricular focus in many schools to preparing students to take such tests. And to devote even more time to academic instruction, many schools have cut back on recess, despite its contribution to all domains of development.
Although older elementary school children in traditional classrooms have a slight edge in achievement test scores, constructivist settings are associated with many other benefits——gains in critical thinking, greater social and moral maturity, and more positive attitudes toward school. Yet despite grave concerns about its appropriateness, even preschool and kindergarten teachers have felt increased pressure to stress teacher-directed, academic training. Young children who spend much time passively sitting and doing worksheets, as opposed to being actively engaged in learning centers, display more stress behaviors (such as wiggling and rocking), have less confidence in their abilities, prefer less challenging tasks, and are less advanced in motor, academic, language, and social skills at the end of the school year. Follow-ups reveal lasting effects through elementary school in poorer study habits and achievement. These outcomes are strongest for low-SES children, with whom teachers more often use an academic approach——a disturbing trend in view of its negative impact on motivation and emotional well-being.
In contrast, low-SES children experiencing Montessori education——-a constructivist method devised a century ago by Italian physician Maria Montessori——-reap many benefits. Features of Montessori schooling include multiage classrooms, teaching materials specially designed to promote exploration and discovery, long time periods for individual and small group learning in child-chosen activities, and equal emphasis on academic and social development. In an evaluation of Montessori public preschools serving mostly urban minority children in Milwaukee, researchers compared students randomly assigned to either Montessori or other classrooms. Five-year-olds who has completed two years of Montessori education outperformed controls in literacy and math skills, cognitive flexibility, false-belief understanding, concern with fairness in solving problems with peers, and cooperative play with agemates.
New approaches to education, grounded in Vygotsky's sociocultural theory, capitalize on the rich social context of the classroom to spur children's learning. In these SOCIAL-CONSTRUCTIVIST CLASSROOMS, children participate in a wide range of challenging activities with teachers and peers, with whom they jointly construct understandings. As children APPROPRIATE (take for themselves) the knowledge and strategies generated from working together, they become competent, contributing members of their classroom community and advance in cognitive and social development. Vygotsky's emphasis on the social origins of higher cognitive processes has inspired the following educational themes:

Teachers and children as partners in learning. A classroom rich in both teacher-child and child-child collaboration transfers culturally valued ways of thinking to children.
Experience with many types of symbolic communication in meaningful activities. As children master reading, writing, and mathematics, they become aware of their culture's communication systems, reflect on their own thinking, and bring it under voluntary control.
Teaching adapted to each child's zone of proximal development. Assistance that both responds to current understandings and encourages children to take the next step helps ensure that each student will make the best progress possible.
In Chapter 6, we considered two Vygotsky-inspired collaborative practices: reciprocal teaching and cooperative learning. Recognizing that collaboration requires a supportive context to be most effective, another Vygotsky-based innovation makes it a schoolwide value. Classrooms become COMMUNITIES OF LEARNERS where teachers guide the overall process of learning but no other distinction is made between adult and child contributors: All participate in joint endeavors and have the authority to define and resolve problems. This approach is based on the assumption that different people have different expertises that can benefit the community and that students, too, may become experts.
Classroom activities are often long-term projects addressing complex, real-world problems. In working toward project goals, children and teachers draw on one another's expertises and those of others within and outside the school.
In one classroom, students studied animal-habitat relationships in order to design an animal of the future, suited to environmental changes. The class formed small research groups, each of which selected a subtopic—-for example, defense against predators, protection from the elements, reproduction, or food getting. Each group member assumed responsibility for part of the subtopic, consulting diverse experts and preparing teaching materials. Then group members taught one another, assembled their contributions, and brought them to the community as a whole so the knowledge gathered could be used to solve the problem. The result was a multifaceted understanding of the topic that would have been too difficult and time-consuming for any learner to accomplish alone.
Besides size and educational philosophy, an additional structural feature of schooling contributes to student achievement and adjustment: the timing of transitions from one school level to the next. Entering kindergarten is a major milestone. Children must accommodate to new physical settings, adult authorities, daily schedules, peer companions, and academic challenges.
In longitudinal research extending over the school year, the ease with which kindergarteners made new friends, were accepted by their classmates, and related to their teachers predicted cooperative participation in classroom activities and self-directed completion of learning tasks. These behaviors, in turn, were related to gains in achievement during kindergarten. Furthermore, children with friendly, prosocial styles more easily made new friends, gained peer acceptance, and formed a warm bond with their teacher. In contrast, those with weak emotional self-regulation skills and argumentative, aggressive, or peer-avoidant styles established poor-quality relationships and made few friends.
The capacity to form positive peer and teacher relationships enables kindergarteners to integrate themselves into classroom environments in ways that foster both academic and social competence. In a follow-up or more than 900 4-year-olds, children of average intelligence but with above-average social skills fared better in academic achievement in first grade than children of equal mental ability who were socially below average. Because social maturity in early childhood contributes to later academic performance, a growing number of experts propose that readiness for kindergarten be assessed in terms of not just academic skills but also social skills, including capacity to form supportive bonds with teachers and peers, to participate actively and positively in interactions with classmates, and to behave prosocially.
Preschool interventions, too, should attend to these vital social prerequisites. Warm, responsive teacher-child interaction is vital, especially for temperamentally shy, impulsive, and emotionally negative children, who are at high risk for social difficulties. In studies involving several thousand 4-year-olds in public preschools in six states, teacher sensitivity and emotional support were especially potent predictors of children's social competence during preschool and in a follow-up after kindergarten entry.
Early adolescence is another important period of school transition: Students typically move from an intimate, self-contained elementary school classroom to a much larger, impersonal secondary school where they must shift between classes. With each school change——from elementary to middle or junior high and then to high school——adolescents' grades decline. The drop is partly due to tighter academic standards. At the same time, the transition to secondary school often brings less personal attention, more whole-class instruction, and less chance to participate in classroom decision making. In view of these changes, it is not surprising that students rate their middle or junior-high school learning experiences less favorably than their elementary school experiences. They also report that their teachers care less about them, are less friendly, grade less fairly, and stress competition more. Consequently, many young people feel less academically competent, and their liking for school and motivation decline. Inevitably, students must readjust their feelings of self-confidence and self-worth as they encounter revised academic expectations and a more complex social world. In several studies that followed students across the middle- and high-school transitions, grade point average declined and feelings of anonymity increased after each school change. Girls fared less well than boys. On entering middle school, girls' self-esteem dropped sharply, perhaps because the transition tended to coincide with other life changes: the onset of puberty and dating. And after starting high school, girls felt lonelier and more anxious than boys, and—— although they were doing better academically——their grades declined more rapidly.
Adolescents facing added strains at either transition——-family disruption, poverty, low parental involvement, high parental conflict, or learned helplessness on academic tasks——-are at greatest risk for self-esteem and academic difficulties. Furthermore, the high school transition is particularly challenging for African-American and Hispanic students who move to a new school with substantially fewer same-ethnicity peers. Under these conditions, minority adolescents report decreased feelings of belonging and school liking, and they show steeper declines in grades.
Distressed youths whose school performance either remains low or drops sharply after school transition often show a persisting pattern of poor self-esteem, motivation, and achievement. In another study, researchers compared "multiple-problem" youths (those with both academic and mental health problems), youths with difficulties in just one area (either academic or mental health), and well-adjusted youths (those doing well in both areas) across the transition to high school. Although all groups declined in grade point average, well-adjusted students continued to get high marks and multiple-problem youths low marks, with the others falling in between. The multiple-problem youths showed a far greater rise in truancy and out-of-school problem behaviors, such as doing something dangerous for the thrill of it, damaging public property, or getting drunk. For some, school transition initiates a downward spiral in academic performance and school involvement that leads to dropping out.
As these findings reveal, school transitions often lead to environmental changes that fit poorly with adolescents' developmental needs. They disrupt close relationships with teachers at a time when adolescents need adult support. They emphasize competition during a period of heightened self-focusing. They reduce decision making and choice as the desire for autonomy is increasing. And they interfere with peer networks as young people become more concerned with peer acceptance.
Support from parents, teachers, and peers can ease these strains. Parental involvement, monitoring, autonomy granting, and emphasis on mastery rather than merely good grades are associated with better adjustment. Adolescents with close friends are more likely to sustain these friendships across the transition, which increases social integration and academic motivation in the new school. Forming smaller units within large schools promotes closer relations with both teachers and peers and greater extracurricular involvement. And a "critical mass" of same-ethnicity peers——-according to one suggestion, at least 15 percent of the student body——-helps teenagers feel socially accepted and reduces fear of out-group hostility.
Other, less extensive changes are also effective. In the first year after a school transition, homerooms can be provided in which teachers offer academic and personal counseling and work closely with parents to promote favorable adjustment. Assigning students to classes with several familiar peers or a constant group of new peers strengthens emotional security and social support. In schools that took these steps, students were less likely to decline in academic performance or display other adjustment problems.
Finally, teenagers' perceptions of the sensitivity and flexibility of their school learning environments contribute substantially to successful school transitions. When schools minimize competition and differential treatment based on ability, middle school students are less likely to feel angry and depressed, to be truant, or to show declines in academic values, self-esteem, and achievement. School rules that strike young people as fair rather than punitive also foster satisfaction with school life.
The classroom is a complex social system in which teachers engage in as many as 1000 exchanges with students each day. Extensive research exists on teacher-student interaction, most focusing on its significance for academic achievement.
Elementary and secondary school students describe good teachers as caring, helpful, and stimulating——behaviors associated with gains in motivation, achievement, and favorable peer relations. But too many U.S. teachers emphasize repetitive drill over higher-level thinking, such as grappling with ideas and applying knowledge to new situations. In a longitudinal investigation of a large sample of middle school students, those in more stimulating, academically demanding classrooms showed better attendance and larger gains in math achievement over the following two years.
As we have seen, teachers do not interact in the same way with all children. Well-behaved, high-achieving students typically get more encouragement and praise, whereas unruly students have more conflicts with teachers and receive more criticism from them. Caring teacher-student relationships have an especially strong impact on the achievement and social behavior of low-SES minority students and other children at risk for learning difficulties. But overall, higher-SES students——who tend to be higher achieving and to have fewer learning and behavior problems——have more sensitive and supportive relationships with teachers.
Unfortunately, once teachers' attitudes toward students are established, they can become more extreme than is warranted by students' behavior. Of special concern are EDUCATIONAL SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECIES: Children may adopt teachers' positive or negative views and start to live up to them. As early as first grade, teachers' beliefs in children's ability to learn predict students' year-end achievement progress after controlling for students' beginning-of-year performance. This effect is particularly strong when teachers emphasize competition and publicly compare children, regularly favoring the best students.
Teacher expectations have a greater impact on low-achieving than high-achieving students. When a teacher is critical, high achievers can fall back on their history of success. Low-achieving students' sensitivity to self-fulfilling prophecies can be beneficial when teachers believe in them. But biased teacher judgments are usually slanted in a negative direction. In one study, African-American and Hispanic elementary school students taught by high-bias teachers (who expected them to do poorly) showed substantially lower end-of-year achievement than their counterparts taught by low-bias teachers. And in a Dutch investigation, teachers' subtle prejudices against Turks and Moroccans were associated with a larger achievement gap between Dutch-origin and ethnic minority first through sixth graders. Recall our discussion of stereotype threat in Chapter 8. A child in the position of confirming a negative stereotype may respond with anxiety and reduced motivation, amplifying a negative self-fulfilling prophecy.
Many schools group students by ability or track them into classes in which students of similar achievement levels are taught together. The goal is to reduce the need for individual teachers to meet a wide range of academic needs.
Homogeneous groups or classes can be a potent source of self-fulfilling prophecies. Low-group students———who as early as first grade are disproportionately low-SES, minority, and male——-get more drill on basic facts and skills, engage in less discussion, and progress at a slower pace. Gradually, they decline in academic self-esteem and motivation and fall further behind in achievement. Unfortunately, widespread SES and ethnic segregation in U.S. schools consigns large numbers of low-SES minority students to a form of schoolwide, deleterious homogeneous grouping.
Another way schools can increase the heterogeneity of student groups is to combine two or three adjacent grades. In MULTIGRADE CLASSROOMS, academic achievement, self-esteem, and attitudes toward school are usually more favorable than in the single-grade arrangement, perhaps because multigrade classrooms often decrease competition and increase harmony. The opportunity that mixed-grade grouping affords for peer tutoring may also contribute to its favorable outcomes. When older or more expert students teach younger or less expert students, both tutors and tutees benefit in achievement and self-esteem, with stronger effects for low-SES minority students and students in the early elementary school grades. However, small, heterogeneous groups of students working together often engage in poorer-quality interaction (less accurate explanations and answers) than homogeneous groups of above-average students. In Chapter 6, we noted that for collaboration between heterogeneous peers to succeed, children often need extensive guidance. When teachers provide this assistance, heterogeneous classrooms are desirable into middle or junior high school, resulting in clearer explanations, greater enjoyment of learning, and achievement gains across a wide range of school subjects
By high school, some homogeneous grouping is unavoidable because certain aspects of education must dovetail with the young person's educational and vocational plans. In the United States, high school students are counseled into college preparatory, vocational, or general education tracks. Unfortunately, low-SES minority students are assigned in large numbers to noncollege tracks, perpetuating educational inequalities of earlier years. Longitudinal research following thousands of U.S. students from eighth to twelfth grade reveals that assignment to a college track accelerates academic progress, whereas assignment to a vocational or general education track decelerates it. Even in secondary schools without an overarching tracking program, low-SES minority students tend to be assigned to lower course levels in most of all academic subjects, resulting in DE FACTO (unofficial) tracking.
Breaking out of a low academic track is difficult. Track or course enrollment is generally based on past performance, which is limited by placement history. Interviews with African-American students revealed that many thought their previous performance did not reflect their ability. Yet teachers and counselors, overburdened with other responsibilities, had little time to reconsider individual cases. And compared to students in higher tracks, students in low tracks exert substantially less effort—-a difference due in part to less stimulating classroom experiences.
High school students are separated into academic and vocational tracks in virtually all industrialized nations. In China, Japan, and most Western European countries, high school track placement is determined by a national exam, which usually establishes the young person's future possibilities. In the United States, students who are not assigned to a college preparatory track or who do poorly in high school can still attend college. Ultimately, however, many young people do not benefit from the more open U.S. system. By adolescence, SES differences in quality of education and academic achievement are greater in the Uniter States than in most other industrialized countries. And the United States has a higher percentage of young people——about 8 percent——who view themselves as educational failures, drop out of school, and by their mid-twenties still have not completed a high school program
We have seen that effective teachers flexibly adjust their teaching strategies to accommodate students with a wide range of characteristics. But these adjustments are especially challenging when children have learning difficulties. U.S. legislation mandates that schools place children who require special supports for learning in the "least restrictive" (as close to normal as possible) environments that meet their educational needs. In INCLUSIVE CLASSROOMS, students with learning difficulties learn alongside typical students in the regular educational setting for part or all of the school day——a practice designed to prepare them for participation in society and to combat prejudices against individuals with disabilities that lead to social exclusion. Largely as the result of parental pressures, an increasing number of students experience FULL INCLUSION——full-time placement in regular classrooms.
Som students in inclusive classrooms display MILD INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY: Their IQs fall between 55 and 70, and they also show problems in adaptive behavior, or skills of everyday living. But the largest number——5 to 10 percent of school-age children——have LEARNING DISABILITIES, great difficulty with one or more aspects of learning, usually reading. As a result, their achievement is considerably behind what would be expected on the basis of their IQ.
Sometimes, deficits express themselves in other ways——-for example, as severe inattention, which depresses both IQ and achievement test scores. The problems of students with learning disabilities cannot be traced to any obvious physical or emotional difficulty or to environmental disadvantage. Instead, deficits in brain functioning are involved. Some learning disabilities run in families, and in certain cases, specific genes have been identified that contribute to the problem. In many instances, the cause is unknown.
Although some students benefit academically from inclusion, many do not. Achievement gains depend on both the severity of the disability and the support services available. Furthermore, children with disabilities are often rejected by regular-classroom peers. Students with intellectual disabilities are overwhelmed by the social skills of their classmates; they cannot interact adeptly in a conversation or game. And the processing deficits of some students with learning disabilities lead to problems in social awareness and responsiveness. Does this mean that children with special needs cannot be served in regular classrooms? Not necessarily. Often these children do best when they receive instruction in a resource room for part of the day and in the regular classroom for the remainder——an arrangement that the majority of school-age children with Lear disabilities say they prefer. In the resource room, a special education teacher works with students on an individual and small-group basis. Then, depending on their progress, children join regular classmates for different subjects and amounts of time.
Special steps must be taken to promote positive peer relations in inclusive classrooms. Cooperative learning and peer-tutoring experiences in which teachers guide children with learning difficulties and their classmates in working together lead to friendly interaction, improved peer acceptance, and achievement gains. Teachers can also prepare their class for the arrival of a student with special needs. Under these conditions, inclusion may foster emotional sensitivity and prosocial behavior among regular classmates.
Regardless of students' age, abilities, gender, SES, or ethnicity, parent involvement in education——-keeping tabs on the child's progress, communicating often with teachers, and ensuring that the child is enrolled in challenging, well-taught classes——promotes academic motivation and achievement. Parents who are in frequent contact with the school send a message to their child about the value of education, model constructive solutions to academic problems, and (as children get older) promote wise educational decisions. Involved parents also learn from other parents about which classes and teachers are the best and how to handle difficult situations. And teachers and parents are more likely to give students consistent messages about academic and behavioral expectations.
Families living in low-income, high-risk neighborhoods often feel disconnected from their children's schools, and they face daily stresses that reduce their energy for school involvement. Yet stronger home-school links can relieve some of this stress. Schools can build parent-school partnerships by strengthening personal relationships between teachers and parents, showing parents how to support their child's education at home, building bridges between minority home cultures and the culture of the school, enlisting the help of neighborhood organizations with deep roots in the lives of families, and including parents in school governance so they remain invested in school goals.
Our discussion has focused largely on how teachers can support the education of children and adolescents. Yet we have also seen in this and previous chapters that many factors——-both within and outside schools——affect children's learning. Societal values, school resources, quality of teaching, and parental encouragement all play important roles. These multiple influences are especially apparent when schooling is examined in cross-cultural perspective.
In international studies of reading, mathematics, and science achievement, young people in China, Korea, and Japan are consistently top performers. Among Western nations, Australia, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland are also in the top tier. But U.S. students typically perform at or below the international averages.
Why do U.S. students fall behind in academic accomplishments? According to international comparisons, instruction in the United States is less challenging, more focused on absorbing facts, and less focused on high-level reasoning and critical thinking than in other countries m. A growing number of experts believe that the U.S. No Child Left Behind Act has contributed to these trends because it mandates severe sanctions for schools whose students do not meet targeted goals on achievement tests——initially, student transfers to higher-performing schools, and ultimately, staff firing, closure, state takeover, or other restructuring. Furthermore, compared with top-achieving nations, the United States is far less equitable in the quality of education it provides to its low-income and ethnic minority students. And U.S. teachers vary much more in training, salaries, and teaching conditions.
Finland is a case in point. In the 1980s, it abandoned a national testing system used to ability-group students and replaced it with curricula, teaching practices, and assessments aimed at cultivating initiative, problem solving, and creativity——vital abilities needed for success in the twenty-first century. Finnish teachers are highly trained: They must complete several years of graduate-level education at government expense. And the Finnish education is grounded in equal opportunity for all——a policy that has nearly eliminated SES variations in achievement, despite an influx of immigrant students from low-income families into Finnish schools over the past decade.
In-depth research on learning environments in Asian nations, such as Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, also highlights social forces that foster strong student learning. Among these is cultural valuing of effort. Whereas American parents and teachers tend to regard Native ability as the key to academic success, Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese parents and teachers believe that all children can succeed academically as long as they try hard. Asian parents devote many more hours to helping their children with homework. And Asian children, influenced by collectivist values, typically view striving to do well in school as a moral obligation——-part of their responsibility to family and community.
As in Finland, students in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan receive the same nationally mandated, high-quality curriculum, delivered by teachers who are well-prepared, highly respected in their society, and far better paid than U.S. teachers. Academic lessons are particularly well-organized and presented in ways that capture children's attention and encourage high-level thinking. And Japanese teachers are three times as likely as U.S. teachers to work outside class with students who need extra help. The Finnish and Asian examples underscore the need for American families, schools, and the larger society to work together to upgrade education. Over the past decade, U.S. international rankings in reading, math, and science achievement have declined. And following several decades of gains, from 1999 on the U.S. National Assessment of Educational Progress——in which challenging achievement tests are given to nationally representative samples of 9-, 13, and 17-year-olds——showed only slight gains in reading and no improvement in math. These disappointing achievement outcomes underscore the need for a "broader, bolder approach to U.S. education." Recommended strategies, verified by research include:

providing intellectually challenging, relevant instruction with real-world applications
Strengthening teacher education
Supporting parents in creating stimulating home learning environments, monitoring their children's academic progress, and communicating often with teachers
Investing in high-quality preschool education, so every child arrives at school ready to learn
Vigorously pursuing school improvements that reduce the large inequities in quality of education between SES and ethnic groups.

Effective educational change must take into account students' life backgrounds and future goals. As we will see next, besides improving academic instruction, special efforts are needed in vocational education to help non-college bound youths prepare for productive work roles.
Approximately one-third of U.S. young people graduate from high school without plans to go to college. Although they are more likely to find employment than those who drop out, changes in the labor market over the past several decades——labor-saving technologies, outsourcing of U.S. jobs to other countries, and a minimum wage that has not kept up with inflation——have drastically reduced viable work opportunities for high school graduates. About 20 percent of recent U.S. high school graduates who do not continue their education are unemployed. When they do find work, most hold low-paid, unskilled jobs. In addition, they have few alternatives for vocational counseling and job placement as they transition from school to work.
American employers regard recent high school graduates as poorly prepared for skilled business and industrial occupations and manual trades. And there is some truth to this impression. In high school, about one-fourth of U.S. adolescents are employed——a greater percentage than in other developed countries. But most are middle-SES students in pursuit of spending money rather than vocational exploration and training. Low-income teenagers who need to contribute to family income or to support themselves find it much harder to get jobs.
Adolescents typically hold jobs that involve low-level, repetitive tasks and provide little contact with adult supervisors. A heavy commitment to such jobs is harmful. The more hours students work, the poorer their school attendance, the lower their grades, the less likely they are to participate in extracurricular activities, and the more likely they are to drop out. Students who spend many hours at such jobs tend to feel more distant from their parents and report more drug and alcohol use and delinquent acts.
In contrast, participation in work-study programs or other jobs that provide academic and vocational learning opportunities is related to positive school and work attitudes, achievement, and reduced delinquency. Yet high-quality vocational preparation for non-college-bound U.S. adolescents is scarce. Unlike some European nations, the United States has no widespread training systems to prepare youths for skilled business and industrial occupations and manual trades. Although U.S. federal and state governments support some job-training programs, most are too brief to make a difference and serve only a small minority of young people who need assistance.
In Germany, adolescents who do not go to a Gymnasium (college-preparatory high school) have access to one of the world's most successful work-study apprenticeship systems for entering business and industry. About two-thirds of German youths participate. After completing full-time schooling at age 15 or 16, they spend the remaining two years of compulsory education in the Berufsschule, combining part-time vocational courses with an apprenticeship that is jointly planned by educators and employers. Students train in work settings for more than 350 blue- and white-collar occupations. Apprentices who complete the program and pass a qualifying examination are certified as skilled workers and earn union-set wages. Businesses provide financial support because they know that the program guarantees a competent, dedicated work force. Many apprentices are hired into well-paid jobs by the firms that train them.
The success of the German system——-and of similar systems in Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, and several Eastern European countries——suggests that a national apprenticeship program would improve the transition from high school to work for U.S. non-college-bound young people. The many benefits of bringing together the worlds of schooling and work include helping non-college-bound young people establish productive lives right after graduation, motivating at-risk youths to stay in school, and contributing to the nation's economic growth. Nevertheless, implementing an apprenticeship system poses major challenges: overcoming the reluctance of employers to assume part of the responsibility for vocational training, ensuring cooperation between schools and businesses, and preventing low-SES youths from being concentrated in the lowest-skilled apprenticeship placements or from being unable to find any placement, an obstacle that Germany itself has not yet fully overcome.
Currently, small-scale school-to-work projects in the United States are attempting to solve these problems and build bridges between learning and working. Young people who are well-prepared for an economically and personally satisfying work life are much more likely to become productive citizens, devoted family members, and contented adults. The support of families, schools, businesses, communities, and society as a whole can contribute greatly to a positive outcome.