It’s normal for young people to worry about fitting in. Peer groups play an important role in young people’s lives, particularly during adolescence. ‘Peer pressure’ refers to the influence that these groups can have on how an individual thinks and acts. 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. Here’s a breakdown of Teenage peer pressure in its many forms, and tips for people who want to help teenagers and young adults make healthy, life-long choices.
Positive and Negative Peer Pressure
Negative peer pressure occurs when friends negatively influence each other. Examples of negative peer pressure include trying to talk someone into trying drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, and sex. Negative peer pressure can happen directly and indirectly. Positive peer pressure is the good type of peer pressure. It’s when friends push you to do great things and to excel. A teen may feel empowered by his/her friends because of the positivity from them. we probably wish all pressure from peers was positive, but the reality is that it’s not as common as the negative form.
Direct and Indirect Negative Peer Pressure
Direct negative peer pressure is friends directly asking someone to do something. As you can imagine, this is a powerful form of peer pressure because it’s much more difficult to resist. A teen is afraid of ridicule and losing his/her friend(s) if he/she doesn’t do what is asked. Indirect negative peer pressure is not as powerful but can still greatly influence the decisions a teen makes. Indirect peer pressure is what one sees and hears other teenagers doing. Since others are wearing something or doing something, he/she should follow suit to fit into the group. No one necessarily asks someone to do anything, but it’s an unspoken pressure that he/she feels.
Spoken and Unspoken Peer Pressure
Spoken peer pressure is when a teenager 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. 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, etc.). 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.
Becoming the most powerful source of influence to your teenager
You don’t always have to agree with your teen’s choice of fashion or their decisions about how to decorate their room. But it’s important to intervene when they are headed down an unhealthy road. Even though it may not feel like it sometimes, parents can be the strongest influence in their child’s life if they understand and are aware of the types of peer pressure their teenager is facing. Supporting healthy friendships, modeling responsible behavior and keeping an open, judgment-free family dialogue are three key components of maintaining positive parental influence on a teenager. Take the time to talk it out with your teen and ask them about types of peer pressure they may be facing.