Conformity is seen everywhere throughout life. People conform when they are trying to pick which restaurant to go to, or which movie to see. People conform all the time without even being conscious about doing it. Conformity affects a school-age child’s educational experiences. Although the negatives outweigh the positives there is some positives of conformity. In society normal is just seen as acceptable, people who conform do not run the risk of being excluded or bullied by their peers. Conformity can be defined in many different ways depending on the context.
When involving children conformity can be defined in three different way. When referenced to peer pressure according to Beran, Kaba, Caird, & McLaughlin conformity is defined as when an “individual changes his or her own behavior to match the consensus of the group” (851). This definition however, is not the same when conformity is referenced to individuals who change their own opinion in a cooperative environment. In this case conformity has been described by Susan B. Crockenberg as the sense of going along with the incorrect opinion of the majority. Conformity is a serious problem and it is not talked enough about.
People do not realize how often children conform to their peers and the rest of society throughout their life. The start of the issue begins early, about the time when children are beginning preschool, age of three to five. A quote by Richard W. Dettering sums up how people who are different than the rest of society feel. Dettering states, “The idea that men are created free and equal is both true and misleading: men are created different; they lose their social freedom and their individual autonomy in seeking to become like each other” (118). Often the first thing that runs through a child’s mind before they choose to conform is fear.
Fear of making the wrong decision, fear of being bullied, and even fear of being rejected. The idea of acceptance plays a role in conformity. According to Dettering school-age children focus on acceptance, if they are not accepted they feel they are not good enough and isolate themselves from others. “Importance of belonging to a group and adjusting oneself to society has received attention on every educational level from preschool to the graduate division” (Dettering, 118). It is important that children feel accepted and feel that they have a place in this world.
Often the children who do not feel accepted appear weak and targeted as bullying victims. Children who are bullied are often younger, weaker, and more passive than the bully. The victim appear anxious, insecure, cautious, sensitive, and quiet and often react by crying or withdrawing (Bulock). In contrast, the same people who do not feel accepted can also build up their anger to become the bully themselves. It is believed that bullies experience a reduced level of popularity and peer status among their peer groups (Yoonju & Chung). The abusive behavior of the bully can come from past peer conformity which ended in rejection.
Conformity is especially likely if a person feels motivated to seek acceptance from a group and if the conformity can be observed by this group. People seek for those who see they are trying to conform, but often that can lead to rejection or bullying. Bullying is a big issue in schools. “One in five children have admitted to being a bully” and “twenty five to fifty percent of students have admitted to being bullied” (Bulock, 131). If this still doesn’t seem like an issue, children even try to stay home from school to avoid being rejected or bullied. “Eight percent of children have stayed away from school one day a month” (Bulock, 131).
To succeed in school children must perceive school as a safe environment where they can be the unique individual God made them. Research has shown that those bullied in schools continue to show the effects of being bullied after they enrolled in an institution of higher education (Adams, & Lawrence). Children either adopt or reject the behaviors of their peers when they are forced into a situation involving peer pressure. Children who feel rejected by their peers publicly conformed more to the judgement of their groups than did children who felt less rejected (Heerdink, Kleef, Homan, and Fischer, 270).
Conformity to peer pressure has been tested through an abundant of experimental research. “When an individual holds an opinion that is contrary to those of the majority of the group, there is pressure for the individual to conform” (Beran et al, 852). When discussing peer pressure another factor that can contribute to children’s conformity to peer pressure can be through the environment. Cooperative environments have been linked to cooperation and conformity.
To investigate the effect of cooperative learning environments, on conformity in schoolage children Susan B. Crockenberg conducted an experiment. Before conducting the experiment Crockenberg proposed that children conform on tasks with interdependent goals, but no interpersonal interaction. Her experiment took place in a school, where she took one hundred and ninety third and fourth grade students both boys and girls and divided them into groups of three. Crockenberg then gave each student the task of completing a twenty three page workbook. She told the students the winning group who gets the answers right would win a prize. However, the students had to work as a group and provide one answer per page only.
There was a catch however, that the students did not know about. Crockenberg made three pages of every student’s workbook different from one another. This little catch raised disagreements within the groups and harassment from other group members. Crockenberg also assigned the same task to the same amount of students, but they were not in groups. After completing this experiment, Crockenberg discovered that “children in the cooperative-win condition or simply put the children working in groups conformed significantly more than children in the no group control working alone.
This suggested that an extended group experience when it culminates in success does increase conformity” (Crockenberg, 128). Although this is all true, Crockenberg discovered that conforming in cooperative environments can depend on the age on the children. She found age can have an effect on whether or not a child conforms when they are put into a group environment. Fifth grades focus their values and wished on loyalty and trust of another, whereas, a first or third grader will comply with a group only if the request coincides with their own wishes and desires.
These children as Kohlberg suggests may be aware of another person’s needs or desires without feeling the obligation to consider those needs if they oppose his or her own (Crockenberg, 130). Conformity does in fact have an impact on school-age children at an early age. The first step to get rid of conformity is to eliminate the fear. Students need to see that they can succeed and are accepted in school. For example, moving to a new school is hard enough. The new student needs to feel accepted as the individual they are or they are likely to conform.
Secondly, teachers need to eliminate the group environments. Group time is great to promote social skills, but group time should not happen all the time. Research proves that “group-centered structure is said to have more power to alter the perceptions of individuals in the direction of a common norm than has leadercentered structure” (Dettering, 120). For conformity to decline in children, teachers need to eliminate cooperative environments and use it as a reward for students, instead of an everyday occurrence. With less conformity, there is less bullying to go on.
Many teachers are aware of the bullying that goes on in a classroom, but ignore it because they do not know how to handle it or they believe that it will take care of itself. According to Yoonju and Chung “20 to 30 percent of students in a particular classroom participated in bullying by either reinforcing it or assisting the bully (525). Too many teachers believe in the myth that children “picking on or teasing” one another is a “normal” part of childhood. “Research suggests that many children have already learned to bully by preschool age” (Bulock, 131-132).
Teachers need to be fully aware of the situation at all times and stop it immediately. It would even be a smart idea to meet with the child’s parents and discuss the matter. “Considering that bullying introduced throughout the child’s life-young children may be acting out at school what they have observed and learned at home” (Bulock, 130). A solution to this is to make sure every teacher has had a seminar and training involving bullying. Individuals involved in peer pressure need to be taught how to resist it. An individual’s capacity to resist peer influence plays a protective role against peer conformity (Yoonju & Chung).
When all of these insights are combined, the big solution is early intervention. Adults need to teach children young what is accepted and what is unacceptable. Children need to be taught proper behaviors of someone their age. If conformity is to happen, children need to be informed that God made everyone different and unique for a purpose. Children need to see that being themselves is better than trying to be someone they are not. As Dr. Seuss said, why fit in when you were born to stand out. There is a reason every person is different so flaunt it do not hide it.