The Influences and Effects of Social Conformity in the Other Wes Moore

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Conformity is a social influence that changes an individual’s actions or opinion as a result of “fitting in” with a group or acceptance from one or more persons. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, written by Wes Moore, tells the tale of two different young men both named Wes Moore from the same neighborhood. Both fatherless boys face many trials throughout their young lives. Social conformity influencing their decisions and actions, leading one arrested and the other, a platoon sergeant.

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The article “Family Correlates of Social Skill Deficits Incarcerated and Non-Incarcerated Adolescents”, written by Matlack, M. Eileen, and Mac McGreevy, M.S, best explains the effects family structure and home environment have on incarcerated and non incarcerated adolescents. The article reads, “Kellam found that children just entering the third grade and coming from mother-only families were the most maladaptively aggressive, as noted by teachers; Children in the mother/father families experienced fewer behavior problems.” (par. 8). In The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, the author describes how Wes’s alcoholic father was never really in the picture, leaving Wes to look up to his brother Tony, who was a drug dealer. Although Tony was in the drug dealing game, he always tried his best to steer young Wes to focus on school and to stay out of trouble. Despite Tony’s efforts, Wes chooses the wrong path and years later, he is incarcerated for drug dealing himself.

Although the book focuses on both Wes Moore boys, there is a sense of social conformity influencing Tony as well. “The Social Animal”, written by Elliot Aronson, states, “Because all human beings spend a good deal of our time interacting with other people—being influenced by them, influencing them, begin delighted, amused, saddened by them—it is natural that we develop hypotheses about social behavior.” (par. 18). Tony chooses to hang around the Murphy homes which is “…the most dangerous projects in all of Baltimore. And where “the drug game [is] everywhere…” (Moore p. 26-27). Before the age of ten, Tony picks up on the drug dealing game and by the age of fourteen, he builds a reputation for himself.

Wes was only three years old when he lost his father, leaving his mother to care for her three children while trying to cope with the loss of her husband. Unable to handle taking care of her children on her own, she moves to her parent’s home in the Bronx where she then enrolls Wes into Riverdale Country School, a private school with a majority of white kids. Wes who has friends that are in public school tease him about going to a private school and Wes tries to play it cool. When asked how he liked going to school with the white kids, Wes answered in a way in which he would be accepted because as said in the text, “In the hood, your school affiliation was essential. Even if you weren’t running with the coolest clique, you still got your percentage of your rep from your school, and the name Riverdale wasn’t going to impress anyone.” (Moore p.49). Wes was embarrassed to have come from Riverdale, a private school, because it was frowned upon by his public school peers. He seeks acceptance from his peers by exaggerating a story of his suspension at riverdale. The book reads, “ I was playfully wrestling a kid from my grade…That was the truth. For my friends I decided to juice the story up a little. Or a lot.” (Moore p. 50). Wes thought exaggerating his story would gain more acceptance by his peers.

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