Study Coach UK | Child Development & Conformity Blog

From a very early age children are taught to conform, the initial teachings on conformity takes place within the home, though parents might not realise that they are delivering lessons on conformity. When children enter the school system the lessons on conformity are likely to become more intense and Little Mary or Johnny might start to complain that they no longer like school. 


Children develop physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially (broad categories). The development of social skills are essential if our young ones are to successfully negotiate their social world and build relationships. Children need to understand rules governing social interactions and to have an awareness that there are penalties associated with having poor social skills, perhaps this is why Mums/Moms will want to ensure that their precious young ones are willing to conform. 


Social Psychologists such as Philip Zimbardo have spent a considerable amount of time researching the topic of Conformity. Different theorists will of course have their own definition on a subject but generally speaking the definition of conformity usually have a common theme. 

According to psychologists Zimbardo and Lieppe (1991) Conformity is:

 ‘…a change in belief or behaviour in response to real or imagined group pressures when there is no direct request to comply with the group nor any reason to justify the behaviour change’.


From Zimbardo and Lieppe’s definition the suggestion is that conformity takes place because we feel pressured to have a change of mind or to change our behaviour. The group pressure might therefore be real or imagined: 

  1. Imagine the group pressure or
  2. The group pressure is very real.


3 children (3 constitute a group) tells Little Johnny that if he wants to play with them next time he will have to wear a yellow t-shirt. This is real group pressure, the 3 children have expressly told Johnny that in order to be part of the group he must wear a yellow t-shirt, no other colour will do. They are the Yellow Friends group, if Johnny wants to be part of the Yellow Friends group then he must comply.

Now, you might be thinking: ‘What a cheek, telling my dear child what to wear’. This scenario is however very real and as children mature in age, the greater the likelihood that they could be unduly influenced because of Group Pressures. 


No words were said by the 3 children but Little Johnny believe that the 3 children were giving him a strange look. Little Johnny read the children’s facial expressions and Johnny concluded that the strange look is a disapproving look. Furthermore, Johnny noticed that the children were all wearing a piece of yellow clothing, this might simply be a coincident, but from Johnny’s perception he feels that the disapproving look is due to the fact that he is not wearing anything yellow.  


Will Johnny or won’t Johnny Conform? For conformity to take place, the individual (Johnny) will usually admire, value or aspire to be like members of the group, and as a consequence feels pressured to conform.

If Little Johnny believe that the 3 children are cool, then he is likely to tell Mom/Mum/Dad that yellow is now his favourite colour and he must wear something yellow when he goes to play. 


If your child is of age perhaps you would like to run a little experiment to find out if he/she can be influenced and as a consequence have a change of mind or change of behaviour and conform.  


Study Coach Child Development Conformity Experiment will be available soon. 

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