Celebrities now 'more influential' on young people than parents or friends

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The Independent Online

Celebrities such as Jordan, Kylie and David Beckham are becoming more influential to young people than their parents, teachers and even school friends, a study suggested yesterday.

Star-struck youngsters are treating their famous role models as "pseudo friends", the research found. However, when hero worship turned into obsession, young fans could be left feeling isolated and lacking in social skills, the psychologists concluded.

Academics from Leicester and Coventry universities studied how celebrities influence young people and their social networks. Previously parents, teachers and friends had always been the key influence on children. However, more recently young people were being exposed to other influences such as pop stars, actors and sporting heroes.

Dr John Maltby, of the University of Leicester, said: "Psychological theory suggests that people can make attachments to a number of different people as well as their parents. A hundred years ago, the range of people to influence adolescent socialisation was restricted to peers, relatives, neighbours and teachers. Today, young people are exposed to influential figures through popular culture."

The research identified two forms of celebrity worship among the youngsters.

The first, labelled entertainment-social celebrity worship by researchers, would see children gossiping about their favourite boy band or reading about a particular film star in magazines.

The other, a more problematic form of celebrity worship, was dubbed intense-personal, where children might see their chosen famous person as their best friend or soulmate.

The research suggested that those adolescents who worshipped celebrities for entertainment and social reasons were group players and were self-confident. Children who developed the other form of celebrity worshiptended to be insecure and lack social skills, and told researchers they felt lonely or isolated.

Dr Maltby said that the research showed that youngsters could benefit from their interest in celebrities, if it was not allowed to go too far.

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