Types of Peer Pressure

Peers are a powerful force in the life of a teenager. Whether they know it or not, teens face peer pressure almost constantly. The types of peer pressure range from direct, confrontational pressure, to more subtle pressures to look, dress and act like everyone else.

Negative peer pressure can persuade a teenager or child to shoplift, drink alcohol, take drugs, smoke cigarettes, cheat at school, vandalize property, bully other students, skip school and participate in racist and discriminatory behavior.

Direct Negative Peer Pressure
"We're going behind the bleachers to drink. Come with us! Don't just sit here studying. You never do anything fun!"

Direct, spoken, negative peer pressure puts your child on the spot through direct confrontation. Your teen's peers want to convince him to do something he shouldn't do. When peers resort to this type of direct pressure, it's difficult for teens to find an excuse to do the right thing without risking ridicule.

Unspoken, Indirect Peer Pressure
When it seems like everyone else is doing something-dressing a certain way or acting a certain way-teens feel a tremendous pressure to go along with the crowd and be like everyone else. Most teenagers don't want to stand out as being different. Everyone wants to fit in. No one has to say anything to your child, but just observing their peers will create peer pressure to be like them.

Positive Peer Pressure
Peers can be a positive influence, too. Positive peer pressure can make a teen feel like he should join a sport or a youth organization because a group he admires is doing it. If your child is regularly hearing his friends talk about getting good grades, doing volunteer work and joining clubs, he might follow suit.

How to Resist Negative Peer Pressure
Parents can't remove their children from exposure to negative peer pressure, but they can give them the tools and help they need to resist it.

Remind your children that they are unique individuals and that they should make the most of the things that make them different.

  • Build a close relationship with your child. It keeps your lines of communication open and allows your child to come to you for help and advice when faced with peer pressure.
  • Encourage friendships outside of tight cliques and support new friendships with different people of all types.
  • Arm your child with ways to get out of difficult situations in which they're being pressured into doing something they know is wrong. It never hurts to rehearse potential scenarios so that your child will be prepared with an excuse ("I can't; my mom would kill me if I got caught."  "I have an appointment in a half hour and have to get home."  "I'm not feeling well. I've had a headache all day.")
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Teenage peer pressure can be highly influential with the constant process of making choices and weighing what they have been told by parents, peers, the media, teachers and other sources of information. Any one of these influences can be attractive to a teen.
You don't have to tell your teen to avoid all peer pressure, but you should realize that avoiding the negative effects of peer pressure takes some skill training and strong parental guidance.
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