Emotional Aspects of Peer Relations Among Children in Rural Nepal

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Book Chapter

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The quality of relationships between any two people in any culture determines and is determined by emotional factors. Attraction, rejection, attachment, conflict, trust, jealousy, and intimacy all reflect emotional dimensions of relationships. Friendships and peer interactions require emotional skill and also contribute to children's general social and emotional adjustment (Parker et al., 1995). Peer relations are thought to be unique because they are formed with persons who are close in age and developmental status and are more egalitarian than other relationships (Hartup & Moore, 1990; Ladd, 1988). Friendships are regarded as voluntary and based on a mutual decision to form a relationship (Ladd, 1988; Rubin, Bukowski, & Parker, 1998). Peers teach unique skills to each other (e.g., negotiation and conflict management), when neither partner is the designated authority. Therefore, peer relationships provide a context for behaving in ways that might not exist within the family (Hartup & Sancilio, 1986; Sullivan, 1953).

The definition of peers as nonfamilial, reciprocal relationships of choice with persons close in age requires some additional consideration due to cultural variations in what constitutes a family and a peer, and in what constitutes choice and reciprocity. In the small Himalayan kingdom of Nepal, all persons, including peers, are regarded in familial terms. Moreover, among persons of the same age, every relationship is hierarchical; even children determine and behave according to their rank relative to each other.