Peer pressure is the social pressure by members of one’s peer group to take a certain action, adopt certain values, or otherwise conform in order to be accepted. It is a powerful mental force that influences everyone, but it could bring about good or bad effects depending on the group of people around the individual. The effects of peer pressure could be seen throughout everyone’s daily lives everywhere, be it at school, at work, or within the general community. People of all age groups and backgrounds can find themselves victims of peer pressure. However, people usually relate better to peers of their own age group.
In this essay, we are going to examine the effects of peer pressure on 3 age groups – pre-adolescents, adolescents, and adults. Peer pressure can affect people in different ways – directly, indirectly, and within individual. Direct peer pressure comes about when someone tells an individual what he or she should be doing. In contrast, indirect peer pressure may not be very evident to the individual. When a person interacts with a group of people who have particular habits and engage in particular activities, he or she might be influenced to follow suit.
Individual peer pressure arises when one feels different from the rest of the group and does things to ensure that he or she conforms to the others. Lev Vygotsky’s main theoretical framework proposes that social interaction is critical to the development of cognition He states that “Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first between people (interpsychological) and later inside the child (intrapsychological). Vygotsky came out with concept of “zone of proximal development” (ZPD), which is the level of development attained when the children engage in social behavior (the distance between what a child can do alone and what the child can do with help). Hence, pre-adolescents look to their peers for help and collaboration, and may be influenced by their behaviors in the process of learning. In the preadolescent stage, children primarily engage in learning and their main interaction is with children of their age.
When interacting with other children, they tend to be influenced by their habits and learn things from one another. This is a form of indirect peer pressure. In addition, children might feel inferior and tends to engage in individual peer pressure, whereby they strive to be like their peers. External or intrinsic factors may exacerbate or mitigate the degree of influence peer pressure has on a person. If a person has high self esteem, he or she might not conform to the way his or her peers behave and peer influence will hence not have such a great impact on these individuals.
Parents may also influence the degree peer pressure has on their preadolescent and adolescent children. Children, whose parents frequently neglect, tend to look more to their peers for advice and follow their behavior, and peer influence will have a stronger influence on them. In contrast, parents who ‘control’ their children strictly and spend more time with their children, will lead to their children to be less influenced by peer pressure.