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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development
(Eder and Parker, 1987; Fine, 1987). And on the more negative side, participation in sports is associated with lower rates of altruism (Kleiber and Roberts, 1981).
Finally, Dishion and his colleagues have shown that adolescents who are grouped together for an intervention with a large proportion of peers demonstrating problem behaviors often show increases in a variety of problem behaviors as a consequence of participating in the intervention (Dishion et al., 1999a). This negative impact has been explained by pointing to the impact of the antisocial norms created by the large number of youth heavily involved in problem behaviors. The bottom line is that, whether they are intentionally cultivated or not, community programs have an internal culture of social norms that shapes youths’ perception of appropriate behavior for good or ill, depending on the social norms that emerge. Program personnel need to carefully consider exactly what social norms are being created and reinforced in their programs.
As with all our features, it is critical to consider how the influence of social norms varies across cultural groups and individuals. Cultures and subcultures, of course, are an important source of social norms, and groups differ in the norms they hold most highly. Many cultures share fundamental moral values (for example, against murder and harm to others), but they vary in norms related to conventions, and these norms often carry moral weight during adolescence, when group belonging is so important (Turiel, 1983). Leaders of community programs need to be sensitive to how congruent the norms of their organization are with norms of the culture of their participants.
Such cultural variations also make it difficult to identify a single set of positive social norms that should be supported in all community programs for youth. Communities will differ in the norms they hold most dear. We include this feature of settings not so much to outline a particular set of social norms as universally critical but more to highlight the significance of social norms for development in settings such as community programs for youth.
Before leaving this section, it is important to note two additional important considerations about social norms. First, research suggests that the strength of different sources of influence may vary across cultural groups. Landrine and colleagues (1994) found that peers had a stronger influence on smoking for white youth than for Hispanic and Asian youth, and peers had no influence on smoking among black youth.
Second, individual differences are also important. Susceptibility to peer influence is a critical mediator of the effect of peer norms on behav-