Background teacher notes


Adolescent relationships



Families are dynamic social units potentially made up of different and complex combinations of individuals, that may be under constant change. Young people's adolescent stage of physical, social, emotional and cognitive growth often influences, or is also associated with, changes in the nature of relationships with their family. Adolescent/parent relationships vary greatly between dependent and independent status, and between harmony and conflict. However, the need for stability, encouragement and support from family remains constant.


The stage of rapid physical, emotional and social development in adolescence is also associated with parallel change in the patterns and nature of relationships with family and peers.

Pre-adolescence - Relationships tend be based around same-sex peer groups.

Mid-adolescence - Peer groups start to play an important role in helping to define the adolescent's identity, independent of the family; including the development of the sex role identity. Peers become an important source of social support and companionship and play a significant role in the shaping of thoughts and ideas. Feelings about romantic and sexual relationships begin to form.

Parents still play an important role in adolescent decision-making through continued support and advice.

Late adolescence - Friendships become more stable, interdependent and tolerant of differences in others. In contrast to the egocentric nature of earlier relationships, adolescents become more concerned about the impact of their behaviour on significant others.


Positive aspects/benefits of adolescent peer groups Negative aspects/challenges of adolescent peer groups
Opportunity to develop new friendships Individuality may be suppressed
Opportunity to learn social skills Anxieties and psychological traumas may be caused by peer group rejection
Assist in developing concept of self and identity Desire for peer acceptance may cause adolescents to compromise their beliefs and values
Communication skills enhanced Conformity can lead to intolerance of those who are different
Opportunity to develop healthy sexual relationships Desire to be seen to conform can lead to emotional isolation
Forum to share and solve problems  
Can provide supportive relationships  
Self-esteem can be enhanced  
Can share experiences, activities, etc.  

Peer influence

Peers play an integral role in adolescent mental and emotional development.""

The effect that peers can have on attitudes, values or behaviour may be positive or negative. Peer pressure is a commonly used term describing the powerful expectations and influences of similar aged friends to conform to particular attitudes, beliefs or behaviour.

Remind students that positive relationships of all types are characterised by good communication and mutual respect.


Relevant resources


The Line

Healthy family relationships, Kids Helpline

Handling peer pressure, Kids Helpline

Fact sheets/booklets/videos

Relationships, families and friends, Get the Facts

This Background Note relates to the following Learning Activities: