Some of the main causes of peer pressure are related to age-appropriate behavior. Adolescents develop a strong desire to fit in with their peers and be accepted by them. This desire makes adolescent peer pressure tough to resist.
It's important for parents to equip their children with the skills needed for dealing with peer pressure. If teens don't learn to be confident in themselves and their decisions, they will be more likely to engage in unsafe or illegal behavior. They'll also have a higer risk of depression and other emotional issues.
Knowing Peer Pressure
Peer pressure isn't just about a group of kids daring someone to do something. Often, it's much more subtle. Peer pressure occurs when group of people coerce each other to go along with certain beliefs or behaviors. The group approves of the followers and sometimes harshly disapproves of those who don't fall in line. The consequences of being rejected by one's peers are embarrassment and shame, both very negative emotions for teens.
An obvious form of peer pressure is teen drinking at parties. Kids who attend are expected to drink and some may be expected to drink heavily. Subtler forms of peer pressure exist in clothing choices or attitudes toward sex or drug use. Simply agreeing with the group's attitudes usually isn't enough; teens have to prove themselves by backing their words with actions.
Generally there are a few people in the group that are the leaders. These individuals set the rules for everyone else and are seen as authority figures by their peers. Anyone who challenges the rules is challenging the authority of the leaders. Teens may be unwilling to speak up because they're afraid to lose a friendship with one of these leaders or because they fear losing their status in the group.
Who Is Most Vulnerable?
Teens with few boundaries or rules at home are far more susceptible to peer pressure than those with firm expectations and strict rules. Parents have a surprisingly strong influence on teens. Setting clear boundaries, with consequences, cements this influence.
Parents who are involved in their children's lives give their children the confidence to stand up to their peers. Teens don't expect their peers to respect them for standing up for themselves, but most who do find that they are respected. If a group rejects a teen for resisting the pressure, that teen is often strong enough to find a different peer group that will be more positive.
Help your teen find peers who exert a positive influence, and all will be well. If the leader of the group is one who has few boundaries at home, or is looking for peers to go along with rebellious behavior, encourage your teen to find a different set of friends. The leadership of the peer group determines what the group will do.
Know your teen's friends. Try to involve your teen in clubs, sports and other groups that will offer a positive form of peer pressure that respects achievement, cooperation and teamwork.
What is peer pressure? Any time a teen feels a conflict between what parents and friends expect, peer pressure is the cause.
Negative peer pressure can lead to long-term emotional and physical problems. Understanding how peer pressure works can help parents and teens find ways to deal with it.