Peer groups as a crucible of positive value development in a global world

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Globalization is increasing the challenges adolescents face in developing coherent prosocial values. In many societies, traditional systems of value transmission are eroding and youth are exposed to more diverse reference groups and cultural belief systems. This chapter examines the developmental processes through which youth work together with peers to formulate values in the face of these challenges. We focus on organized youth programs as a valuable arena to understand and support these processes. Using qualitative longitudinal data from 11 culturally diverse, high quality programs, we identified two interlinked peer processes of value work. The first process entailed youth actively opening themselves up to moral realities beyond their own. This occurred through listening, “talking out,” and coming to empathize with the personal experiences of others. The second process involved collective analysis. Youth discussed each other’s stories; they compared, challenged, and critiqued the basis for different value positions. Piaget theorized that youth develop moral principles through interactions with peers. This chapter provides grounded theory on how similar processes function in a global world. Under favorable conditions, peers play powerful roles assisting youth’s efforts to synthesize hybrid value perspectives. They pool their collective experiences to analyze and wrestle with the vexing value issues of a pluralistic world. The chapter concludes with a review of how similar and differing processes of value development may be enacted across global cultural contexts.

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Values, Religion, and Culture in Adolescent Development

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adolescent development, peer relations, personal values, religious beliefs, sociocultural factors