How can being included change a life?
By age five, the parts of the brain involving learning, memory, and motor control have developed. However, the part of the brain that influences decision making, controls impulses, exercises good judgment, learns how to problem solve, and to consider consequences continues to develop until the early 20s.
School provides a place to make friends, participate in sports and other forms of recreation. Peers help each other learn how to interact in different situations, how to plan, how to control themselves, how to tell the difference between acceptable and non-acceptable behaviors, and how to set positive goals.
Youth who are accepted into a peer group have a sense of belonging. They develop self-respect and self-confidence and adopt the values of the group. They can inspire each other to accomplish goals by providing feedback. They have fewer emotional and social adjustment problems. They learn to interpret body language, understand the reasons for their actions, learn compromise, tact, and develop listening skills.
Youth who don’t fit in, who are not accepted by peers, tend to become withdrawn and depressed. They haven’t had the opportunity to develop listening or interpretive skills, and have trouble cooperating. If they’ve been rejected or ignored by peers, they have less self-confidence and poor self-esteem and become anti-social. They are more likely to interrupt, try to dominate and bully other youth. Their desire to belong may lead them to gangs or other kids with behavioral problems.
Peer acceptance and group inclusion play a vital role in character development and happiness of youth.