ior (Fuligni and Eccles, 1993), and susceptibility to peer pressure is higher among younger adolescents and those with less confidence in their social skills (Brown, 1990). People with low self-esteem, low self-confidence, low autonomy, and an external locus of control are more likely to be influenced by social norms (Cook et al., 1993). Susceptibility to peer influence also varies across youth from different family structures and parenting styles (Brown, 1990). Children who are more integrated into cohesive families or peer groups are more resistant to the influence of media (Gerbner et al., 1994) and are likely to be more resistant to negative peer influences as well.
How do norms influence development? Both sociologists and psychologists describe a process in which observation of, and participation in, behavior becomes internalized to form values, morals, and “cognitive schemata” (Berger and Luckmann, 1966; Coleman, 1990; Huesmann and Guerra, 1997). This process begins earlier in life, through interactions with family and peers. Huesmann and Guerra (1997) concluded that normative beliefs about aggression get formed in childhood and become more difficult to change as children move into adolescence. Once internalized, Guerra et al. (1994) suggested, behavioral patterns become automatic (i.e., they are followed without reflection or evaluation). The experience of positive social norms is therefore important to the development of good habits in all areas of positive development. We think norms are particularly important to social, psychological, and emotional development because they shape morals, present ways of relating to others, and provide templates of self-control.
A critical contribution of psychological theories, such as those of Piaget and Erikson, is the recognition that positive development is not something adults do to young people, but rather something that young people do for themselves with a lot of help from parents and others. They are the agents of their own development. To foster development, then, it follows that settings need to be youth centered, providing youth—both individually and in groups—the opportunity to be efficacious and to make a difference in their social worlds—we refer to this opportunity as “mattering.” We combine under this feature multiple elements drawn from other researchers and practitioners: the importance of actually having the opportunity to do things that make a real difference in one’s community, the idea of empowerment, and support for increasingly au-