Peer pressure has a much greater effect on adolescent teens than any other factor. Think about it, teens spend more of their waking hours with peers than family members. The interaction is direct, and much more powerful than the influence of teachers and other authority figures. Peer pressure tends to have more of an effect on children with low self-esteem. If a child feels compelled to fit in, the teen may do things that go against his/her beliefs simply to be part of the group.
Peer pressure can lead to experimentation with drugs and alcohol, sex, skipping school, and various high risk behaviors. If there is a sudden change in child’s appearance, clothing, and attitude, especially if accompanied by secretive behavior, he or she may be succumbing to the influences of peers. Especially if there is a sudden change in the friends who make up their core peer group. An unexplained change in the type of friends the child associates with would indicate that the child is vulnerable to new influences that may not be positive.
How can parents who spend far less time with their children than do their peers, have an influence on their teens? Parents need to set clear expectations for behavior, establish rules about communicating where and with whom their teenagers are spending their time, and should pre-set consequences for lying about activities or where they are going. By communicating expectations, the adolescent cannot claim they “did not know” what is expected of them. One of the most difficult issues can be when a teen decides to hang out with the “wrong crowd”.
Parents often find it is difficult to control such behavior. They will lament that when they forbid their teen. Often by simply setting the rules about communicating their whereabouts, the effects of any peer group can be limited. However, if a particular peer group is negatively impacting the child, it is important to deal with the reasons the teen is being influenced in this direction. He or she may have problems with self-esteem or self-confidence and feel it is necessary to fit in any way possible, even if it means fitting in with a negative peer group.
Parents will not change the teen’s attitude by forbidding access to these peers. They can only change the attitude by dealing with the primary issues that cause it in the first place. An adolescent is drawn to a particular group because it “feeds” them in some way. If they are choosing the wrong group there is a fundamental core issue that needs to be addressed therapeutically before any significant change can occur. Drinking is one of the most common for teens. This is because teens see drinking as a way to get away from the real world.
The stresses they are under are less overwhelming when they are drunk. Drinking is a very addictive behavior that not only affects the person drinking, but also the people they are around. Drinking is a major cause of teen accidents, violence and loss of interest in activities. Drinking also has several negative health effects. These are liver damage and failure, incoherent behaviors, mental and emotional damage. Smoking is a very widespread peer pressure. The effects of smoking are a lifelong habit that is very damaging to health.
However, this is one of the main ways a teen starts to feel like an adult. They do not realize that the effects they are taking on with each cigarette are much more than just seeming more like an adult. Drugs is another widely used vice started by peer pressure. Drugs are also alluring to teens because it helps them relax. There are several different options of drugs that have different effects both short term and long term. There is pot that relaxes, but however can cause weight gain. There are harsher drugs like cocaine, crystal meth etc. hat causes teens to act more excited. However these drugs have very bad effects on the body. For example: loss of teeth, bone weakness, and loss of body and brain functions. These drugs can also cause hair loss of discoloration, bad breath, and wrinkles. Overall, each of these drugs affects thinking and much more. More teens are pressured into sex by other teens that have already had the experience. This is because those teens do not want to be the only ones who have done it. However early sex causes some sort of emotional damage for many teens.
Therefore it is a good idea to explain abstinence and why it is important. Also, it is a good idea to explain the statistics of disease due to sex. With all the stress a teen has, if they are not equipped to deal with stress, it makes them more likely to find an alternative type of stress relief. This is why they choose these types of habits to pick up with their friends. It is not only to be cool, or adult, but they feel it necessary. Therefore, in order to protect teens from these effects of peer pressure, equip them with positive self-esteem, unconditional love and acceptance, and knowledge.
Between the ages of twelve and nineteen is a period in a teenager’s life that determines what kind of adult he or she will become. This period of adolescence also known as the “formative years”, is the subject of much study and research to determine why teens are so vulnerable to peer pressure. The horrifying number of incidents of drug use, unwanted teen pregnancies, alcohol abuse, and teen suicide is the reason for the need of research. Perhaps it is because as children they are taught the importance of having and maintaining friends.
Or perhaps they feel they can’t talk to their parents or teachers for help with anything. Or maybe they simply want to rebel against the pressures that were brought among them when they were a child. Because teens spend their time at home or school, it is within these confines that the answer to adolescents’ behavior lie. In other words family and school can sometimes cause teens to give in to peer pressure because of an over emphasis on the importance of social adjustment, a lack of interest or communication on the part of parents and teachers and the unrealistic expectations that these entities create.
Although the purpose of attending school is to receive an education, it also gives the child the ability to develop new friendships. Most would agree that social interaction but sometimes parents are guilty of over emphasizing this importance. The classroom setting represents not only an educational place but a powerful social context in which the psychological adjustment of children can be affected. Teachers tend to promote social interaction by assigning exercises that require working in pairs or groups.
Furthermore, when a teacher spots a child playing alone, they will encourage him or her to join the other children while overlooking the possibility that the child might have preferred to be alone. Thus, from an early age, children are taught to value the importance of social interaction and this value stays with them as they move into the adolescent years. The result is that adolescents come to value their friendships deeply and in some cases more so than their relationships with family members.
This accounts for the adolescent not being able to refuse their friends for fear of losing the bonds that they have formed and is thus a cause of their greater susceptibility to peer pressure. A second cause that contributes to the vulnerability of adolescents in the face of peer pressure is the lack of interest or communication on the part of the parents and teachers. “Under ordinary circumstances, parents and children rarely do things together, except at meal times. Ever since work and school have pulled adults and children away from the home, conflicting schedules keep family members circling around each other in eccentric orbits. (Csikszentmihalyi, p. 145) If the parents are not around or simply do not show interest in their children’s affairs, and then it should not be surprising that adolescents will be more influenced by their peers with whom they spend the majority of their time. “In terms of sheer amount of time, peers are by far the greatest presence in the adolescent’s life. “(Czikszentmihalyi, p. 71) Since the adolescent also spends a good deal of time at school, it would seem that the teacher would serve as a sort of parent model in the classroom to whom students could come for guidance.
However, not so much a lack of interest but rather a lack of communication exists in this setting as well, due to the ratio of students to teacher in the classroom. This inhibits the possibility of the teacher having a true personal relationship with each student. Of course, this is a situation not easily remedied but nonetheless it is still a factor in an adolescent’s tendency to turn to their friends as role models. If there are no adults available to provide negative feedback, then once again it is not surprising that they give in to the pressures placed on them by their peers. Adolescence is a period of biological growth and maturation, self discovery and social adaptation. “(Vega, p. 4) By this definition it can be seen that the adolescent world is significantly different from the adult world. This point of view renders the expectations placed on adolescents by family and school unrealistic and therefore causes of rebellion and conformity to peer pressure. In the home environment, relations between parents and adolescents tend to be strained because each has different goals that come into conflict. Davis also argues that there is inevitable conflict between adult realism and youthful idealism within the family. “(Csikszentmihalyi, p. 131) Parents expect their children to see things the same way they do, overlooking the fact that they have more experience in life that thus accounts for the difference in perspective. School as an institution is also responsible for placing unrealistic goals upon these adolescents, who are only concerned with immediate gratification. Because they cannot yet visualize the long-term benefits of a good education, their goals conflict with those of educators.
These conflicting interests eventually lead adolescents to rebel against these unrealistic expectations and thus give in to peer pressure as a demonstration of their rebellion. Of course, there are those who say that it is not the parents and teachers who are responsible, but the teenagers themselves. Furthermore, it has been argued that despite the methods used to understand the behavior of adolescents and to relate to them on their level, adolescents seem to have a mind of their own. They are completely conscious and aware of their actions when giving in to peer pressure.
Although this may be the case, it does not follow that society should not make any more efforts to help teenagers as they go through the difficult transition from adolescent to adulthood. Because it is the parents and teachers that instilled in them the value and meaning of friendships, it should be the parents and teachers who help them to see that friendships also have limits. If adolescents realize that social interaction is important but only to a certain point, then they will have the strength to say no to their friends.
Likewise, if parents and teachers somehow found a way to better communicate with their children and students respectively, these adolescents would most likely come to share their feelings with them and not rely so much on their peers for feedback. And lastly, if parents and teachers became aware of the unrealistic expectations they place on teenagers, the result would be a decrease in conflict as well as a decrease in the number of adolescents who feel the need to rebel through conformity to peer pressure.
In other words, examining the ways in which family and school cause adolescents to give in to peer pressure leads to a resolution of the causes. What is the overall result? Adolescents have a healthier sense of the meaning of friendships, they have an alternative other than peers to whom they can turn to and they are freed from any unrealistic expectations that they themselves can’t understand. But most importantly, they become less susceptible to the traps of peer pressure.
- Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly and Reed Larson. Being Adolescent: Conflict and Growth in the Teenage Years. Basic Books, Inc. 1984.
- New York Juvonen, Jaana and Kathryn R. Wentzel. Social Motivation: Understanding Children’s School Adjustment. Cambridge University Press. 1996.
- Cambridge Vega, William A. and Andres G. Gil. Drug Use and Ethnicity in Early Adolescence. Plenum Press. 1998. New York