Adam Levine says “Peer pressure plays a huge role in people’s desire to get married.” Peer pressure also referred to as peer influence or social pressure is the effect on individuals whose attitudes, beliefs or values are changed by their peers in order to conform to those of the influencing group. Peer pressure is quite common among teenagers since they are often easy to influence and not stable in their beliefs yet.
Peer pressure, or influence, comes in several forms, and these types of peer pressure can have a tremendous impact on a young person’s behavior. Research shows the most impressionable age for peer influence seems to be the middle school years. This is when a child is forming new friendships and choosing an identity among those friends. It is also the most common age for kids to start experimenting with alcohol, drugs, sexual activity and other risky behaviors.Very often, the drive to engage in this kind of behavior is as a result of peer pressure.
Adolescents who have larger circles of friends appear to be less influenced by the suggestions or actions of their peers, but the pressure to conform is very real at this age. Though peer pressure is predominant among secondary school students, college and university students are also susceptible to it. Going to college is a profound change, and even the most prepared, well-adjusted students are likely to face a few hurdles as they adjust. As students set new priorities or adopt different lifestyles, it opens them up to pressures that they may have resisted in the past such as the use of harmful drugs, alcohol and engaging in premarital sex.
This article explores the types, causes and solutions to peer pressure on the part of both parents and teachers.
Types of Peer Pressure
There are six types of peer pressure as enumerated by ‘talk it out‘ which includes:
1. Spoken peer pressure
Spoken peer pressure is when a teenager or adolescent asks, suggests, persuades or otherwise directs another to engage in a specific behavior. If this is done in a one-on-one environment, the recipient of the influence has a stronger chance of adhering to his or her core values and beliefs. If, however, the spoken influence takes place within a group, the pressure to go along with the group is immense.
2. Unspoken pressure
With unspoken peer pressure, a teenager is exposed to the actions of one or more peers and is left to choose whether they want to follow along. This could take the form of fashion choices, personal interactions or ‘joining’ types of behavior (clubs, cliques, teams). Many young teens lack the mental maturity to control impulses and make wise long-term decisions. Because of this, many teens are more susceptible to influence from older or more popular friends.
3. Indirect peer pressure
Similar to unspoken peer pressure, indirect peer pressure is subtle but can still exert a strong influence on an impressionable young person. When a teen overhears a friend gossiping about another person and then reacts to the gossip, that is indirect peer pressure. Or if a middle schooler learns that the popular kids’ parties include alcohol or drugs, that indirect pressure may prompt them to experiment as a way to gain acceptance.
4. Direct peer pressure
This type of peer pressure can be spoken or unspoken. Direct peer pressure is normally behavior-centric. Examples of these kinds of behavior would be when a teenager hands another teen an alcoholic drink, or makes a sexual advance, or looks at another student’s paper during a test. The other teen is put in a position of having to make an on-the-spot decision.
5. Positive peer pressure
A group dynamic can be a positive peer influence if the behaviors are healthy, age-appropriate and socially acceptable. For instance, if a peer group wants to make good grades, a young teen can be positively influenced to study. Or if a popular friend wants to earn money and save to buy a car, a less outgoing teenager may also be influenced to get a job and open a savings account. If members of the football team take a pledge to abstain from drinking alcohol to focus on staying healthy and having a winning season, other students may adopt the same behavior. Also, a star student can positively influence an introvert into being more serious with studies in order to be acknowledged.
6. Negative peer pressure
Asking a young teenager to engage in a behavior that is against their moral code or family values is a type of negative peer pressure. Teens see the actions of other teens with stronger personalities and are put in a position of following the leader or walking away. It’s not uncommon for teens with strong morals to find themselves engaging in behavior that goes against their beliefs, simply because they want acceptance. Young people often lack the skills to come up with an excuse or reason to say no to negative peer pressure.
Causes of Peer Pressure
1. Social acceptance and fear of rejection
Young people feel the need to fit into the popular circle or clique and the common cultural and sociological value system in order to be socially accepted. However, fitting in also requires individuals to give up many of their own beliefs and traits. People who are desperate to fit in are easy targets for peer pressure and certain groups of people who understand this may exploit those people and use them for their goals. Many young people in our society are also quite fearful of rejection and are therefore afraid to have their own opinion. If this fear of rejection is too strong, it may lead to a point where the individual gives up all his values and beliefs just to conform with the attitudes and value systems of a group. Thus, this fear of rejection is a powerful reason for pack behavior and the development of peer pressure.
2. Weak persona
Peer pressure is quite effective on persons who have not developed a stable personality yet. The weaker the personality, the easier it is for groups to influence individuals to behave in certain ways. Since character and personality takes time to evolve and develop, teenagers and young adults are at greater risk to be affected by peer pressure compared to older individuals who have more life experience. Therefore, the weaker the personality, the higher the chance that people get affected by peer pressure.
3. The fear and avoidance of being bullied
Young people who haven’t developed a strong character yet are often victims to bullying activities in school. In order to get out of all of this, people who are afraid to become victims of bullying might join groups or gangs in which they feel safe and protected. However, by joining those gangs, the peer pressure for doing certain things or in the extreme case to commit heinous crimes can be quite strong, which may lead to several other issues like going to jail or child correctional facilities.
Especially for teenagers, there might also be hormonal issues when it comes to peer pressure. The hormone system of teenagers is quite complex and hormone levels change quite frequently. Thus, this makes teenagers quite vulnerable to peer pressure since their hormones may weaken their ability to be excellent judges of character in certain situations.
Teachers and parents’ role in curbing the efficacy of peer pressure
In order to curb the detrimental effects of peer pressure, teachers should educate school kids about peer pressure and how it could impact their current and future life. Through this education, young adults may become better prepared to refrain from peer pressure actions and to act according to their own value systems instead. Parents also have their work cut out for them with regards to mitigating peer pressure.
In order to fight the negative effects of peer pressure, it is crucial that parents observe their kids’ behavior and pay close attention to behavioral changes. Those changes may indicate that kids are affected by peer pressure. In such a case, parents should talk to their kids in order to figure out what’s going on and to take measures before things gets out of control.
It is also important that parents build self-esteem in their children so that they are not too much dependent on the affirmation of others. If children have enough self-esteem and know what they want and what they don’t want to do, they will be less likely to engage in criminal activities due to negative peer pressure.
Note to students
The first beneficiary of the reward for hard work, passion and dedication is yourself and it is said that one can drag a horse to the stream but cannot force it to drink. What this means is that you as a student owe yourself the choice to be responsible, not join the crowd in social vices that will be detrimental to your future life and career. Make the right decisions today and smile tomorrow. Good luck!