Stimulating Small-Group Discussion Activity 5: Who Affects Us More: Parents or Peers?

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

Some reasons why students seemed stimulated by this discussion:

1) Before reading this article, many students just assumed that parents affected us more than peers.

2) They seemed interested to hear about the relationship their classmates had with their parents and peers when they were younger.

3) They were surprised by the findings of the research in the article about how peers affect each other.

4) They enjoyed comparing, agreeing and disagreeing with their classmates about this controversial topic.

Here is the basis for this discussion: psychologist Judith Harris, in her book The Nurturing Assumption, discusses research which she believes shows that our actions, beliefs and preferences are influenced more by our peer than by our parents.

This and future discussion activities include four parts:

1) A one-page article usually including a brief summary of a high-interest research study.

2) Ten true-false comprehension questions.

3) Pre-Discussion Exercise in which students read and think about several questions about their own experiences about the topic.

4) Small-group discussions of the article in which each student is given a paper with different questions in the form of Student A, B or C.

About Discussion Activity 5: Who Affects Us More: Parents or Peers? (and the handout).

Here is an excerpt from the article

1 Researchers did a study of children whose families had recently immigrated to the U.S.  They found that these children almost never spoke English with the accent of their parents.  But if their friends spoke with an accent, then they were more likely to do the same.  Psychologist Judith Harris, in her book The Nurturing Assumption, gives the examples of an ESL class in which there were only a few Russian-speaking students but many Spanish speakers.  These children from Russia would speak English with Spanish accents.

 3 Children want other children to approve of them.  They wear the types of clothes other children wear and even speak the language (for example, slang) that is similar to their peers, not their parents. It’s from experiences with peers that children learn how to solve conflicts (for example, arguments), how to earn respect and how to control their anger.  This makes sense because in the future, they will be working with and marrying people from their own generation, not their parents’ one.  If children want to “survive” as adults, they will need to identify with their peer group, not their parents.

Here are some of the personal experience discussion questions that students will discuss.

Pre-discussion Exercise 2

Think about these discussion questions.  You don’t have to write anything.

Most of these questions are about when you were between 13 and 18 years old. 

  1. When you were between 13 and 18 years old, who did you like to spend your time with the most?  (Tell the name or names.)
  2. At that age, did your parents often praise you?  In other words, did they tell you when they were happy about something you did?  Give some examples.
  3. Was it important to you that your parents praised you?
  4. Think about the clothes you wore.  Do you think that your parents or your peers influenced your choice of clothes?
  5. Did you use language (for example, slang) with your peers that was different from the language your parents used?
  6. Did you have any friends who had bad behavior?  Do you think that they influenced you?
  7. Do you think your peers in your neighborhood influenced how you behaved?
  8. Do you know anyone who was your age who smoked?  Tell us their names.
  9. Do you think that they were influenced to smoke because of their parents or peers?
  10. Do you think that your parents will influence you when you choose someone to marry?

Here is the link to the complete activity: Parents or Peers Discussion article and questions HO

To make group discussion most successful, see these postings for activities

Conversation magic: Two most important conversation techniques (Part 1)
Conversation magic: Two most important techniques. (Part 2)
Discussion Technique to Get Quiet Students Involved (Part 1)
Discussion Technique to Get Quiet Students Involved (Part 2)

Also see this posting Want Your Students to Seem More Likeable? Research Says: Teach Them Follow-up Questions

David Kehe

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