What is a clique? A clique is a group of friends that hang out together and are usually not welcoming to newcomers. Exclusion is important for the clique since it makes its members stick together by keeping others out. It is the noticeable group, the one every child wishes to join but is often rejected. Cliques have rules, as they determine how their members dress, how they look, how they behave, who is in, who is out.

What happens within a clique?
A clique is an exclusive group, this exclusivity helps to keep its members together since being part of the group provides them with social membership, self-importance and social standing. This is increasingly important as children grow, since they naturally become more independent from their family and they need more peer support. This transition brings insecurity and affects the child’s self esteem, and it is most intense as they approach their teens.

What is membership? Membership is defined as group belonging, it provides a social place with peers.

In a clique, membership is based on specific norms or terms of conduct that become the conditions for inclusion, and if they are not followed they may bring on exclusion.

Can belonging to a clique become oppressive? The terms of conduct required to belong to a clique are sometimes oppressive of being oneself, particularly when they dictate the way to behave, what to believe, what to agree with, what to follow along, what to hide (never tell on any leader of the clique), what to like or dislike, who to like and who to dislike, how to look (appearance), peer preferences (always like clique leaders and members best), not have competing outside friends, never do better than clique members-especially clique leaders, submit to clique leaders.

All these terms of membership imply that a child must give up individual freedom, and many times being honest with themselves.

This pressure to belong and follow a clique’s rules may take a child to do things they don’t want to do because they know they are wrong. This peer pressure can take children to do things they just would not do, but they feel they don’t have a choice. Belonging is so important that they go to great lengths in doing, and not doing things, just for not being excluded!

Members that fear exclusion have to be extremely careful in not being unique, not standing out; they need to be informed in the clique’s members events, usually through social media, to know how to act or what to say to or about an event or issue; saying something without thinking might result in producing an enemy in the clique; changing alliances is risky too.

Exclusion feels terrible and is devastating to children!!!
It is much worse when a child was a member of a clique, since all his/her efforts and energy were focused on belonging to the clique, many times hurting others that otherwise would become his/her friends at this time. This situation leaves the child devastated, empty, alone, excluded…
What is popularity? Popularity is a measure of social standing based on how many peers want to be someone’s friend. It is also a measure of inclusion.

There are different ways of being popular, it depends in what group one wants to be popular in. When a group values good grades, hard work, following rules, etc, one can be popular in that group by excelling in those traits, these groups are usually formed by parents and teachers. When a group values looks, possessions, dress, coolness, sports and social skills, then one should excel in such traits to be popular. These are valued traits usually within adolescent groups and cliques.

When a child is a friend of other popular children, he or she is seen as popular too; and when a child is friends with unpopular children he or she can be seen as unpopular and can be excluded from the “popular groups” or cliques.

A child can become an excluder when they fear being excluded from the group they want to belong. What they don’t understand is that by excluding someone they are denying themselves the opportunity of knowing someone that can be a good friend, limiting their own association abilities and possibilities. Not only are they limiting their acquaintances, but they are limiting their own individual growth.

In a clique, members are together valuing certain characteristics, and getting similarity within the group. All members look, act, think and say similar things. This makes it impossible for a member to show any sign of individuality: it limits the possibility of a member to be different from the others. When this happens, the pressures within the clique to be similar grow, and the possibility of someone to express their individuality is denied, limiting the member’s social exposure. This is how belonging to a clique becomes so oppressive.

In a social environment there are different groups, based on common interests, activities, etc. There are different popularity levels between the groups, some are perceived as the most popular groups and others are considered merely unpopular. Not all groups are cliques, many groups do not have the same membership requirements that cliques have.
Hierarchy in a Clique

Although they all look, act, think and speak in the same way, not everyone is the same in a clique. A clique has a hierarchical system having the clique’s leaders at the top, the “wannabe’s” or the ones who aspire to be leaders, and the clique’s buddies.

* Leaders: they are dominant, they work hard to maintain their influence, position and image
to keep their leadership.

* Wannabe’s: they want to be leaders, so they make a huge effort in getting the favor of the leaders,
making sure their rivals don’t get it.

* Buddies: they follow the leaders and wannabes, they form the supporting audience to their leaders;
and they take stoically, fearing exclusion, all the meanness directed to them.

It is not easy to be part of a harsh clique, it takes great effort and it limits the child’s self development and growth possibilities.