The ‘IN’ crowd or the ‘OUT’ crowd
When I was studying psychology I was fascinated by the power of group pressure, one example of which was the ‘Heaven’s Gate’ doomsday cult. They were persuaded to commit suicide in order to transfer their souls to a hidden spaceship. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but the lesson is in the behaviours of the leader of the group, and the vulnerability of the members of the group. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven’s_Gate_(religious_group) )
Many in the Heaven’s Gate tragedy were attracted by the security of being in this cult. Psychologists explain that there would be “emotional and social factors at work” but, in essence, the sense of belonging was stronger than the individual minds of each member.
If you translate this to our teenage student behaviour, you can witness similar – though obviously less extreme – examples of wanting to belong to the IN crowd or the OUT crowd. For instance, you’ll notice people conforming with a particular hair style, type of clothing, music, places to go.
Being a member of the In Crowd could mean that you enjoy raised levels of self esteem. I’ve seen this only recently within my own circle of teenagers, one of whom was socially awkward and without status in the year group at school – the Out Crowd. Now, though, he has become ‘cool’ and enjoys the company of the In Crowd, defined in the positive when compared with the Out Crowd.
But the sense of belonging could easily turn into a need to please the leader(s) of the In Crowd so that you can keep your status. This is when behaviour could become ‘out of character’ in order to conform to group pressure, and (if in the wrong crowd) might lead to troubles at school and college. It’s not uncommon for this to be when teenagers experiment with sex, cigarettes, alcohol and soft drugs.
On the other hand, some groups encourage each other academically, sports-wise or musically, and aren’t swayed by the shiny lure of decadence; they have an In Crowd of their own.
In the 14-19 environment we need to observe this to a larger extent when dealing with youngsters with autism, ADHD, depression and anxiety. It’s a confusing world when you are enticed to behave against your own beliefs in order to be in the In Crowd.
Have you noticed any In Crowds and Out Crowds in your classrooms?