Unlike the earlier years of your child's life, your teen is searching for her own sense of individuality and trying on different styles. As your teen grows more independent, her peers and social groups take on a more prominent role in her life. While your teen may still have some of the same friends that she did during the grade school years, her search for identity may lead her to pick a new group of pals based on a shared style.
Cliques are a staple of the high school environment. Consider the pop culture archetypes of teen cliques in movies such as "The Breakfast Club," that clearly spell out the array of social stratification -- preps, jocks, popular kids and burnouts -- that you may see in any high school. While cliques do form around some sort of shared interest, such as cheerleading or playing football, they are also extremely exclusionary. Specific teen styles play pivotal roles in the creation of cliques and the maintenance of their "rules" to join. For example, if your teen plays football, feels the need to wear his letterman's jacket to class and has pressure on him from his friends to date a cheerleader, he's most likely part of the "jock" clique. For each different teen style, a separate clique exists. Although some teens cross cliques and become friends with multiple groups, most have a style that fits more into one group than another.
One of the overriding factors that contributes to teen styles affecting their social groups is shared interests. Although some social groups, especially groups of kids who have maintained friendships from the early years on, have members that vary in interests, the majority revolve around common values or beliefs. This often includes a shared style that plays to the group's main interests. For example, the "artsy" group of kids -- who all have a shared interest in making or discussing art -- may have a more off-beat or creative style than the "jock" group that revolves around sports participation.
Types of Styles
The array of styles that affect teen social groups vary, often changing between generations or even every few years. In the 1950s leather jacket-clad kids with well-slicked hair turned their rebellious style into the "greaser" group, while mohawks and neon hair put kids in the 80s into the "punk" group. Some styles and social groups have stood the test of time -- such as sporty jocks or the "cool" popular kids -- while others may seem almost alien to modern parents. For example, if your teen -- or her friends -- dyes her hair black, starts wearing white makeup with darkly drawn on eye liner and decides on fashions that includes mostly dark colored clothing, you are likely seeing the emo or even goth style.
Some teen styles that play directly into social groups aren't exactly fashion or lifestyle choices that your teen would make on his own. Peer pressure can influence almost everything, from what your teen does to what he decides to wear. While it's completely normal for a teen to want to fit in to a certain group, it may cause strife at home -- or conflict within your child -- when he feels pressure to look or act in a way that doesn't align with his actual internal beliefs. You may notice that your teen suddenly wants to wear drastically different clothes, change his hair style or even get a piercing. If you feel that this quick style change is having a negative impact on your teen or that he is losing the ability to stand up for himself and act as an individual, talk to him about the choices that he is making. Give him examples from your own past experiences during high school, and let him know that you are always there to listen.