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Is it important to fit in with your peer group?

A common idea in informal social psychology is that fitting into one's peer group doesn't matter. The problem, if it is even a problem at all, is with the cliquishness, snobbery, and meanness of the peers, rather than with the individual. However, the contrary viewpoint is that a difficulty to fit in may indicate a lack of social skills of the individual, and that this difficulty if unaddressed impedes his or her social development.

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Experts and Influencers

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Experts In Psychology

Vivian Seltzer    Psychology Professor
Adolescence is a crucial developmental stage where friends, not parents, serve the primary educating role. ... To my mind the peer group is an enormously important place where crucial developmental work is going on but we haven't really recognized its significance.
07 Dec 1981    Source

Experts In Cognition

Robin Hanson    Economics Professor
Mostly Agree
People care what others think about them. In fact they usually care _a lot_, more than they care to admit. Since caring less is considered admirable ... people often say and signal ... that they care less than others[.] It seems ... that while people do vary ... this variation is ... more about _which_ others they care about. "Conformists" tend to care about ... a usual mix of people weighted by a standard status. "Non-conformists", in contrast ... car[e] about non-standard status audiences.
29 Jun 2010    Source

Experts In Literature

H. P. Lovecraft    Author
Of what use is it to please the herd? They are simply coarse animals — for all that is admirable in man is the artificial product of special breeding. We advocate the preservation of conditions favourable to the growth of beautiful things — imposing palaces, beautiful cities, elegant literature, resposeful art and music, and a physically select human type such as only luxury and a pure racial strain can produce.
10 Feb 1923    Source

Experts In Entertainment

Jessica Alba    Actress, Celebrity, Beauty Icon
I never fit in with my peer group. I never hung out with kids my age - I always wanted to hang out with my mom and her girlfriends. I was on a TV show when I was 13, and had a tutor for high school. Everyone was like, “Oh, you’re missing out on the high school experience,” so I’d go with my cousins to these parties where there would be a keg and people doing body shots [etc.]. I was like, What a waste of time. I didn’t want to be doing E and making out with a [loser] guy 3 years older than me...
25 Mar 2005    Source


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2 Points      Robert      02 Nov 2010      Stance on Question: Mostly Agree
It is important to have access to a peer group that you can fit into without having to change too much of who you are. If this means finding a group of kids outside of school who share a common interest or a better fit personality-wise, it is the responsibility of the parents to place their children in the best possible environment for their children to successfully develop socially. Otherwise their children will grow up into adults who have to guess at how to navigate the social world and hope they get it figured out.

1 Point      Keller Scholl      27 May 2011      Stance on Question: Disagree
It is important to have a group. They shouldn't be chosen by age, or whom your mother likes, or who your dad, but by who you find yourself enjoying time with and finding common ground with. I agree with the importance of having a group, and having them be your "equals," for whatever you value in life, can be a good thing.

But fitting in with your peer group simply displays a worrisome lack of critical thought, reinforces current biases and stereotypes, and makes it harder for you to learn because the people you are dealing with have little to teach you because they are so like you. I disagree with my friends frequently, respectfully, and honestly. They come from different places, are in different places, and have different stories from me. We are not each other, because a world made of clones would be boring. I try to find unique individuals, who are different from me. Race, class, gender, philosophy, extroversion, intellectualism, ect, all can be important differences that give us a chance to learn. Having a friend who is exactly like me is a waste of both of our times. It is important to have some common ground for effective communication, but no more than what is needed should be looked for.

0 Points      Benja      27 May 2011      General Comment
"I disagree with my friends frequently, respectfully, and honestly. They come from different places, are in different places, and have different stories from me."

At the risk of coming across as overly facetious, the irony here is that if your friends all shared this admirable attitude that you have, you'd fit in quite nicely with your peer group.

1 Point      Keller Scholl      27 May 2011      General Comment
At the risk of coming from a personal example that fails to generalize, I will explain how I see and use this principle.

There is a difference between "share the same attitude" and fit in with. Among the friends who share my penchant for discovery and debate, I count a right wing Christian conservative and a pastafarian programmer. I don't, unless I am consciously making an effort to change my behaviour, fit in with my friends. But we have some commonality strong enough to bind us, and that allows us to have different experiences, while getting along. And sadly, yes, many people I am friendly with don't share that attitude.

More generally:
Sharing one attitude does not entirely determine "fit." When all of your friends are upper class protestant kids with liberal/conservative politics similar to your own, you should be terrified. When all of your friends agree with you on a single thing and you have not consciously selected for that thing, you should be worried. The key difference is conscious selection. I know that I select my friends, at least partially, for their tolerance and interest in discussion. I value that trait. If I found that all of my friends were liberal in social issues and mixed on economic ones, despite me not selecting for that, I would be more worried but not unduly terrified, as I have found a correlation among people I have dealt with between inquiry, tolerance, and liberal politics. If I found all my friends were upper class, I would stop, halt, and catch on fire. What you know you will be biased by hurts you less. If you find selecting for a trait to be worth the benefit/induction of bias tradeoff, it is acceptable. What is bad is doing so without considering the tradeoff, or doing so without even realising there is something off about it.

0 Points      OmnipotentRabbit      10 Apr 2010      Stance on Question: Mostly Disagree
And why should it be important? To one's subconscious mind, in an unfamiliar environment, surely it seems necessary. But it isn't, at least not to the extent most people follow it. Of course one can't just act completely different and disregard their existence completely - such will just result in far worse. But letting one's own life be led by some vague concept of a group rather than by one's own decisions is by far one of the most utterly idiotic things one can do.

0 Points      Radioactivity      09 Apr 2010      Stance on Question: Disagree
Important to whom? Important in what way? If it's important to yourself that you fit in because you're unhappy otherwise, I'm not going to say you're wrong, just that I don't think your idea of what will make you happy is necessarily 100% accurate. As someone who never went to highschool and hates most of their peer group, though, I guess I might be biased.

0 Points      Cheery Cherry      09 Jul 2009      Stance on Question: Mostly Disagree
I was a military brat who grew up everywhere on the globe and with each new places, we always lived off base. I attended school off base so every couple of years, I had to try to "fit in" with a new group of people. It was very important for me to fit in at that time. Now that I'm older and I've proven to myself that I do have healthy social skills and I can get along with people from all over the world with many different backgrounds, I am realizing how unimportant it really is to "fit in" with a group of people. I would much rather focus on fitting in with myself and my faith, values, beliefs, etc.

0 Points      Gina      09 Feb 2016      General Comment
Amen! I gave up a group of ultra conservative friends I TRIED to fit in with for over 15 years. I finally wised up and cut them ALL out of my life. For the very first time, at age 52, I am experiencing a sincere love for myself...and guess what? I am ALL alone! I have myself and God. Decided it's time to start over, especially since all of those "friends" only looked down their noses at me and literally "stabbed me in the back" consistently. It's NEVER worth it try to "fit in" with ANY GROUP I learned. I think we gotta "fit in" first with who we see in the mirror everyday...and l else will follow. I promise.