ing one’s neighbors, participating in political life, trusting other people, and being socially active (Frumkin, 2002, 2003; Leyden, 2003).
The basic ingredients of neighborhood social organization can also be present in schools, although the ratio of ingredients differs (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 1995b). Schools can serve both as protective influences and as risk factors. Students may feel connected to the class, and a well-run class may in turn increase their feelings of connectedness (National Research Council, 2001). When students feel cared for at their school, they are less likely to use illicit substances, engage in violence, or initiate sex and are more likely to report higher levels of emotional well-being (Resnick et al., 1997).
Peer Influences. Peers and friends are important throughout childhood. Poor social acceptance is problematic for children during childhood and beyond. Socially rejected, aggressive 3–5-year-old children have demonstrated stress hormone levels in the top third of their class, often spiking to the “stress” level (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2000). And children demonstrating difficulties with aggression and peer rejection in middle school are more likely than other children to have demonstrated such problems during their toddler years (Rutter, 1998). Children who were rejected during the school years are disproportionately represented among adults with psychiatric problems (Coie et al., 1992) and among those with subsequent legal altercations (Kupersmidt and Coie, 1990), although the pathway of influence is not well established in these studies.
Middle adolescence is the age of the adolescent subculture. The importance of the peer group increases, as well as the pressures to conform to it. At this time, the adolescent is seeking a stable (affiliative) rather than a distinct identity (Greydanus et al., 1990). Risky behaviors become important during this time both as a means to bond to a peer group and for youth who desire to confront adults (Greydanus et al., 1990). But peer group association can also be positive; for example, the strong orientation toward academic achievement among Asian Americans has a stronger association with having Asian peers than with Asian parents (Steinburg et al., 1992).
Multiple datasets spanning several decades and across cultural and geographic niches underscore the importance of peers, peer influence, and the selection of peers as friends as factors associated with adolescent behaviors and perceptions of the world (Jessor and Jessor, 1977; Stanton et al., 1994; Romer, 1994). Thus, for adolescents, like their younger counterparts, peer relations continue to play a role in both adolescence and beyond.
Electronic media (television and video, video and computer games, and the Internet) have become an integral part of everyday life for many children in the