Encourage positive peer pressure

We all want our children to be a good influence on others. By learning how to encourage positive peer pressure, you can help your child identify when they can be a force for good in their social group. Your teenager can be a positive peer influence on their friends, and you can help.

What is positive peer pressure?

You may be wondering – how can peer pressure be positive? Well, peer pressure isn’t just about teenagers encouraging each other to take risks or engage in unhealthy behaviour. There are also many positive things about peer pressure, it can really be a good force in the life of your teenager and their friends.
Positive peer pressure is when someone’s peers influence them to do something positive or growth building. For example, peers who are committed to doing well in school or at sport can influence others to be more goal orientated. Similarly, peers who are kind, loyal or supportive influence others to be the same.
Advice from a peer is often more influential to a teenager than advice from an adult. Equip your child (or their friends) with the tools to be a good influence, because they can impact the choices friends make more than any adult can sometimes.

How to encourage your child to use positive peer pressure

Below are some ways that you can encourage your child to be a positive influence on others.

  • Teach your child that their behaviour is always influencing others. Encourage them to understand that their friends are aware of what other people are doing, just like they themselves are. Acting with confidence and sound judgment means others will be more inclined to respect them and follow their lead.
  • Talk with them about the kinds of friends they want to have. Talk with your child about what their values are, and how they can demonstrate them. Encourage them to seek out friends with similar values.
  • Support their interest in positive role models. A role model can offer powerful peer pressure or influence. Encourage your child to identify traits they want to emulate about their role models, and support them to explore interest in good role models.

Why positive peer pressure works

Unlike adults, who will generally act similarly whether alone or in a group, teenagers are more susceptible to the influence of a crowd or their friends. While they are learning about their social place and their identity, they are subconsciously looking to their friends for information about how to act and interact with others.
The teenage brain is hypersensitive to the opinions of others and their place in the social group. Areas of the brain associated with reward are more active when they are with peers, giving them a lot of positive feedback when they are being observed or interacting with others. For the same reason, they also learn more quickly in the presence of their peers.
Knowing this, your child can use it to their advantage. The same way you model behaviour you want your child to adopt, ask your child to model the behaviour they want to see from their friends and peers.

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Parents of teenagers often view their children’s friends with something like suspicion. They worry that the adolescent peer group has the power to prod its members into behavior that is foolish and even dangerous. Such wariness is well founded: statistics show, for example, that a teenage driver with a same-age passenger in the car is at higher risk of a fatal crash than an adolescent driving alone or with an adult.

In a seminal 2005 study, psychologist Laurence Steinberg of Temple University and his co-author, psychologist Margo Gardner, then at Temple, divided 306 people into three age groups: young adolescents, with a mean age of 14; older adolescents, with a mean age of 19; and adults, aged 24 and older. Subjects played a computerized driving game in which the player must avoid crashing into a wall that materializes, without warning, on the roadway. Steinberg and Gardner randomly assigned some participants to play alone or with two same-age peers looking on.

Older adolescents scored about 50 percent higher on an index of risky driving when their peers were in the room—and the driving of early adolescents was fully twice as reckless when other young teens were around. In contrast, adults behaved in similar ways regardless of whether they were on their own or observed by others. “The presence of peers makes adolescents and youth, but not adults, more likely to take risks,” Steinberg and Gardner concluded.

Yet in the years following the publication of this study, Steinberg began to believe that this interpretation did not capture the whole picture. As he and other researchers examined the question of why teens were more apt to take risks in the company of other teenagers, they came to suspect that a crowd’s influence need not always be negative. Now some experts are proposing that we should take advantage of the teen brain’s keen sensitivity to the presence of friends and leverage it to improve education.

Not so risky business

In a 2011 study, Steinberg and his colleagues turned to functional MRI to investigate how the presence of peers affects the activity in the adolescent brain. They scanned the brains of 40 teens and adults who were playing a virtual driving game designed to test whether players would brake at a yellow light or speed on through the intersection.

The brains of teenagers, but not adults, showed greater activity in two regions associated with rewards (the ventral striatum and the orbitofrontal cortex) when they were being observed by same-age peers than when alone. In other words, rewards are more intense for teens when they are with peers, which motivates them to pursue higher-risk experiences that might bring a big payoff (such as the thrill of just making the light before it turns red). But Steinberg suspected this tendency could also have its advantages.

In his latest experiment, published online in August, Steinberg and his colleagues used a computerized version of a card game called the Iowa Gambling Task to investigate how the presence of peers affects the way young people gather and apply information. In this variant on the game, a computer would indicate a card from one of four decks, and players could decide to reveal that card or pass. Two of the decks would lead to an overall loss, and two would lead to overall gains. The experimenters told players that some decks were “good” and others “bad” but did not tell players which were which. Over the course of playing the game, participants gradually figured out which decks to return to and which to avoid. In Steinberg’s study, which involved 101 adolescent males, researchers randomly assigned participants to play alone or in the presence of three same-age peers.

The results: Teens who played the Iowa Gambling Task under the eyes of fellow adolescents engaged in more exploratory behavior, learned faster from both positive and negative outcomes, and achieved better performance on the task than those who played in solitude. “What our study suggests is that teenagers learn more quickly and more effectively when their peers are present than when they’re on their own,” Steinberg says. And this finding could have important implications for how we think about educating adolescents.

Matthew D. Lieberman, a social cognitive neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of the 2013 book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, suspects that the human brain is especially adept at learning socially salient information. He points to a classic 2004 study in which psychologists at Dartmouth College and Harvard University used functional MRI to track brain activity in 17 young men as they listened to descriptions of people while concentrating on either socially relevant cues (for example, trying to form an impression of a person based on the description) or more socially neutral information (such as noting the order of details in the description). The descriptions were the same in each condition, but people could better remember these statements when given a social motivation.

The study also found that when subjects thought about and later recalled descriptions in terms of their informational content, regions associated with factual memory, such as the medial temporal lobe, became active. But thinking about or remembering descriptions in terms of their social meaning activated the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex—part of the brain’s social network—even as traditional memory regions registered low levels of activity. More recently, as he reported in a 2012 review, Lieberman has discovered that this region may be part of a distinct network involved in socially motivated learning and memory. Such findings, he says, suggest that “this network can be called on to process and store the kind of information taught in school—potentially giving students access to a range of untapped mental powers.”

The social advantage

If humans are generally geared to recall details about one another, this pattern is probably even more powerful among teenagers who are hyperattentive to social minutiae: who is in, who is out, who likes whom, who is mad at whom. Their penchant for social drama is not—or not only—a way of distracting themselves from their schoolwork or of driving adults crazy. It is actually a neurological sensitivity, initiated by hormonal changes. Evolutionarily speaking, people in this age group are at a stage in which they can prepare to find a mate and start their own family while separating from parents and striking out on their own. To do this successfully, their brain prompts them to think and even obsess about others.

Yet our schools focus primarily on students as individual entities. What would happen if educators instead took advantage of the fact that teens are powerfully compelled to think in social terms? In Social, Lieberman lays out a number of ways to do so. History and English could be presented through the lens of the psychological drives of the people involved. One could therefore present Napoleon in terms of his desire to impress or Churchill in terms of his lonely melancholy. Less inherently interpersonal subjects, such as math, could acquire a social aspect through team problem solving and peer tutoring. Research shows that when we absorb information in order to teach it to someone else, we learn it more accurately and deeply, perhaps in part because we are engaging our social cognition.

And although anxious parents may not welcome the notion, educators could turn adolescent recklessness to academic ends. “Risk taking in an educational context is a vital skill that enables progress and creativity,” wrote Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London, in a review published last year. Yet, she noted, many young people are especially risk averse at school—afraid that one low test score or mediocre grade could cost them a spot at a selective university. We should assure such students that risk, and even peer pressure, can be a good thing—as long as it happens in the classroom and not the car.

5 Reasons Peer Pressure is a Good Thing

Most people think of peer pressure as this awful thing that makes teenagers drink beer, have sex, and make regrettable fashion choices, but it turns out there is a positive side to this type of influence. New research reveals that peer pressure combined with diet or exercise can be a force for good. Many health-conscious individuals have discovered that a “just say yes” approach to peer pressure and other social stress can help them get (and stay) fit. How? Let us count the ways…

The Buddy System Works

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Here’s one to remember for New Year’s Day. Planning an endeavor and partnering with someone helps you stick to your resolutions. In one British study, researchers split government employees into four groups: Group one was left alone to exercise and improve its diet, group two was asked to recruit a partner, group three was encouraged to develop “if…then” contingency plans (IF I feel hungry, THEN I will eat an apple), and group four made “if…then” plans with a partner.

The results: Working together and joint planning helped employees in group four stick to their new exercise routines, says Mark Conner, lead researcher and professor at the Institute of Psychological Science at the University of Leeds. What’s more, planning with a partner had a sustained positive effect that was noticeable after six months.

Choose Your Friends Wisely

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Selecting the right wingman can make all the difference, especially when it comes to losing weight. According to a 2005 study from Brown Medical School and Dartmouth University, partnering with someone who is serious about dieting (and therefore successfully slims down) increases your chance for weight-loss success. Having someone to whom you are accountable and who can offer advice and support keeps you vigilant.

And it goes both ways. By making positive choices, you influence your partner, and then your partner makes positive choices and influences you back, completing a positive influence loop. Your short-term success, provided you partner with the right person, ultimately determines whether you both attain long-term goals.

Phone a Friend

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You’re walking by a Krispy Kreme. You want to walk in and buy, oh, a dozen. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?! One of the most successful tactics for increasing self-restraint is chasing tempting thoughts from your head. It’s the same strategy that children used in the now-ubiquitous Stanford Marshmallow Experiment. In the experiment, kids were placed in the same room as a marshmallow. They were told that if they waited 15 minutes and did not eat the marshmallow, they would be given a second one. The kids who didn’t immediately chow down distracted themselves by covering their eyes, turning around, tugging on their pigtails, or stroking the marshmallow as if it was a tiny stuffed animal.

What’s the adult equivalent? Call your boyfriend or husband, G-chat with a friend, walk down to a coworker’s cube, hop on Facebook-distract yourself with social activities. The craving will pass.

Paging Dr. Friendship

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It’s a common refrain among moms: “Would it kill you to get out and meet more people?” Heed her advice this time. It might save your life. Research shows that a woman’s social network may impact her chances of surviving breast cancer by enhancing her coping skills, providing emotional support, and expanding opportunities for information-sharing. Another health perk of pairing up: Married men and women live longer following heart surgery.

We all need our alone time, but too little social interaction can have some scary side effects-the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic and twice as many as being obese, according to researchers at Brigham Young University.

When people are connected to a group and feel responsibility for others, their sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks, says researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad. The positive effects of relationships are not exclusive to older adults. They span all age groups.

Good Peer Pressure

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Forget what you’ve learned from those “afterschool specials.” Kids succumb to peer pressure every day, and it’s not always a bad thing. When children encourage their peers to play, those being encouraged (or “pressured”) significantly improve both cardiovascular fitness levels and academic test scores, according to researchers at the Maritime Heart Center (MHC) in Canada.

The MHC team created a program in which peer mentors could lead games (relays, tag, and ball games) during recess. There was an average increase among peer-mentored students of more than 1,000 steps a day, says lead researcher Dr. Hancock Friesen, who hopes that parents and school leaders will adopt new ways of encouraging children to be more active, based on these results.

Joe Donatelli is a freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @joedonatelli.

  • By Joe Donatelli

Peer Pressure

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“Now!” whispered Suki. “Quick, while the clerk’s not looking.”

Heart pounding, Leah leaned against the store’s unattended makeup display and slid two tubes of lipstick into her purse. She looked bored and detached as she followed her friends Suki and Jill out of the store, but inside she felt panicked.

“I can’t believe you made me do that,” Leah wailed.

“Relax,” said Jill. “Everybody does it sometimes. And we didn’t make you do it.”

She said nothing, but Leah knew she wouldn’t have done that on her own. She’d just had a big dose of peer pressure.

Who Are Your Peers?

When you were a little kid, your parents usually chose your friends, putting you in play groups or arranging play dates with certain children they knew and liked. Now that you’re older, you decide who your friends are and what groups you spend time with.

Your friends — your peers — are people your age or close to it who have experiences and interests similar to yours. You and your friends make dozens of decisions every day, and you influence each other’s choices and behaviors. This is often positive — it’s human nature to listen to and learn from other people in your age group.

As you become more independent, your peers naturally play a greater role in your life. As school and other activities take you away from home, you may spend more time with peers than you do with your parents and siblings. You’ll probably develop close friendships with some of your peers, and you may feel so connected to them that they are like an extended family.

Besides close friends, your peers include other kids you know who are the same age — like people in your grade, church, sports team, or community. These peers also influence you by the way they dress and act, things they’re involved in, and the attitudes they show.

It’s natural for people to identify with and compare themselves to their peers as they consider how they wish to be (or think they should be), or what they want to achieve. People are influenced by peers because they want to fit in, be like peers they admire, do what others are doing, or have what others have.

Peer Influence Isn’t All Bad

You already know that the teen years can be tough. You’re figuring out who you are, what you believe, what you’re good at, what your responsibilities are, and what your place in the world is going to be.

It’s comforting to face those challenges with friends who are into the same things that you are. But you probably hear adults — parents, teachers, guidance counselors, etc. — talk about peer pressure more than the benefits of belonging to a peer group.

You might not hear a lot about it, but peers have a profoundly positive influence on each other and play important roles in each other’s lives:

  • Friendship. Among peers you can find friendship and acceptance, and share experiences that can build lasting bonds.
  • Positive examples. Peers set plenty of good examples for each other. Having peers who are committed to doing well in school or to doing their best in a sport can influence you to be more goal-oriented, too. Peers who are kind and loyal influence you to build these qualities in yourself. Even peers you’ve never met can be role models! For example, watching someone your age compete in the Olympics, give a piano concert, or spearhead a community project might inspire you to go after a dream of your own.
  • Feedback and advice. Your friends listen and give you feedback as you try out new ideas, explore belief, and discuss problems. Peers can help you make decisions, too: what courses to take; whether to get your hair cut, let it grow, or dye it; how to handle a family argument. Peers often give each other good advice. Your friends will be quick to tell you when they think you’re making a mistake or doing something risky.
  • Socializing. Your peer group gives you opportunities to try out new social skills. Getting to know lots of different people — such as classmates or teammates — gives you a chance to learn how to expand your circle of friends, build relationships, and work out differences. You may have peers you agree or disagree with, compete with, or team with, peers you admire, and peers you don’t want to be like.
  • Encouragement. Peers encourage you to work hard to get the solo in the concert, help you study, listen and support you when you’re upset or troubled, and empathize with you when they’ve experienced similar difficulties.
  • New experiences. Your peers might get you involved in clubs, sports, or religious groups. Your world would be far less rich without peers to encourage you try sushi for the first time, listen to a CD you’ve never heard before, or to offer moral support when you audition for the school play.

When the Pressure’s On

Sometimes, though, the stresses in your life can actually come from your peers. They may pressure you into doing something you’re uncomfortable with, such as shoplifting, doing drugs or drinking, taking dangerous risks when driving a car, or having sex before you feel ready.

This pressure may be expressed openly (“Oh, come on — it’s just one beer, and everyone else is having one”) or more indirectly — simply making beer available at a party, for instance.

Most peer pressure is less easy to define. Sometimes a group can make subtle signals without saying anything at all — letting you know that you must dress or talk a certain way or adopt particular attitudes toward school, other students, parents, and teachers in order to win acceptance and approval.

The pressure to conform (to do what others are doing) can be powerful and hard to resist. A person might feel pressure to do something just because others are doing it (or say they are). Peer pressure can influence a person to do something that is relatively harmless — or something that has more serious consequences. Giving in to the pressure to dress a certain way is one thing — going along with the crowd to drink or smoke is another.

People may feel pressure to conform so they fit in or are accepted, or so they don’t feel awkward or uncomfortable. When people are unsure of what to do in a social situation, they naturally look to others for cues about what is and isn’t acceptable.

The people who are most easily influenced will follow someone else’s lead first. Then others may go along, too — so it can be easy to think, “It must be OK. Everyone else is doing it. They must know what they’re doing.” Before you know it, many people are going along with the crowd — perhaps on something they might not otherwise do.

Responding to peer pressure is part of human nature — but some people are more likely to give in, and others are better able to resist and stand their ground. People who are low on confidence and those who tend to follow rather than lead could be more likely to seek their peers’ approval by giving in to a risky challenge or suggestion. People who are unsure of themselves, new to the group, or inexperienced with peer pressure may also be more likely to give in.

Using alcohol or drugs increases anyone’s chances of giving in to peer pressure. Substance use impairs judgment and interferes with the ability to make good decisions.

Pressure Pointers

Nearly everyone ends up in a sticky peer pressure situation at some point. No matter how wisely you choose your friends, or how well you think you know them, sooner or later you’ll have to make decisions that are difficult and could be unpopular. It may be something as simple as resisting the pressure to spend your hard-earned babysitting money on the latest MP3 player that “everybody” has. Or it may mean deciding to take a stand that makes you look uncool to your group.

But these situations can be opportunities to figure out what is right for you. There’s no magic to standing up to peer pressure, but it does take courage — yours:

  • Listen to your gut. If you feel uncomfortable, even if your friends seem to be OK with what’s going on, it means that something about the situation is wrong for you. This kind of decision-making is part of becoming self-reliant and learning more about who you are.
  • Plan for possible pressure situations. If you’d like to go to a party but you believe you may be offered alcohol or drugs there, think ahead about how you’ll handle this challenge. Decide ahead of time — and even rehearse — what you’ll say and do. Learn a few tricks. If you’re holding a bottle of water or a can of soda, for instance, you’re less likely to be offered a drink you don’t want.
  • Arrange a “bail-out” code phrase you can use with your parents without losing face with your peers. You might call home from a party at which you’re feeling pressured to drink alcohol and say, for instance, “Can you come and drive me home? I have a terrible earache.”
  • Learn to feel comfortable saying “no.” With good friends you should never have to offer an explanation or apology. But if you feel you need an excuse for, say, turning down a drink or smoke, think up a few lines you can use casually. You can always say, “No, thanks, I’ve got a belt test in karate next week and I’m in training,” or “No way — my uncle just died of cirrhosis and I’m not even looking at any booze.”
  • Hang with people who feel the same way you do. Choose friends who will speak up with you when you’re in need of moral support, and be quick to speak up for a friend in the same way. If you’re hearing that little voice telling you a situation’s not right, chances are others hear it, too. Just having one other person stand with you against peer pressure makes it much easier for both people to resist.
  • Blame your parents: “Are you kidding? If my mom found out, she’d kill me, and her spies are everywhere.”
  • If a situation seems dangerous, don’t hesitate to get an adult’s help.

It’s not always easy to resist negative peer pressure, but when you do, it is easy to feel good about it afterward. And you may even be a positive influence on your peers who feel the same way — often it just takes one person to speak out or take a different action to change a situation. Your friends may follow if you have the courage to do something different or refuse to go along with the group. Consider yourself a leader, and know that you have the potential to make a difference.

Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD Date reviewed: July 2015

Peer pressure and teenagers

This can help if:

  • your child is acting out of character
  • your child is constantly worried about ‘missing out’ or not fitting in
  • you’re concerned about the influence of your child’s friends
  • your child tends to always copy others and be a bit of a follower or easily influenced.

How peer pressure works

A young person can experience peer pressure in varying degrees. Sometimes their peers may proactively influence them to behave in certain ways and at other times they may be just following along. Both of these situations are based on seeking approval, but it is also possible for peer pressure to be a result of bullying. This is when your child fears being teased or physically hurt for not conforming.

Who are my child’s peers?

Your child’s peers are those they admire and consider to play an important role in their life. Depending on your child’s lifestyle, they may have several different peer groups. They generally come from places where your child spends their time – at school, in sport or hobby groups and in the local neighbourhood. If your child uses the internet, their peers can also include people they meet online through forums and social media platforms.

How does peer pressure affect teenagers?

You may associate peer pressure with negative outcomes such as your child trying alcohol, smoking or drugs. However, peer pressure can also allow certain groups to have positive influences on your child. There’s no way of knowing exactly how your child will be affected. Peer pressure can influence any area of your child’s life, from their taste in music to their choice of school subjects.
Positive effects of peer pressure include:

  • a sense of belonging and support
  • increased self-confidence
  • introduction to positive hobbies and interests
  • reinforcement of positive habits and attitudes.

Negative effects of peer pressure include:

  • pressure to use alcohol, cigarettes or drugs
  • pressure to engage in risk taking behaviours
  • distraction from schoolwork
  • distance between family and existing friends
  • drastic changes in behaviour and attitudes.

Self-esteem and mental health issues

It’s important to remember that peer influence and pressure is a normal part of adolescence. As your child starts moving away from the parent-child relationship and seeking their own independence and identity, their peers will become more important to them. However, if you’re concerned about the effects of peer pressure on your child and think that it’s negatively impacting on their life, there are things that you can try to support them.

There are all sorts of pressures our children especially students face today. Stressors that causes them to drink liqours, smoke, slay, stay out late at night, party hard and even engaged themselves to sex or whatever it may be that forces them to partake unto something they hesitate to do. The strain or the the stress you feel from your friends, your classmates, schoolmates or your peers that influences you to act, behave or think the way they do is called peer pressure. This kind of pressure covers you from everything to physical down to your emotional self. It is when you deal with other people and start to relate yourself for their interests and as you do, you adopt their thoughts and patterns unknowingly.

There are two types of peer pressures, the positive and negative peer pressure. Positive peer pressure is the type of peer pressure wherein your friends or peers push you to do excellent things and behave accordingly and proper. On the other hand, negative peer pressure is the opposite type, this is how your peers influence you to do things the other way around. Negative peer pressure could possibly happen directly and indirectly.
Direct negative peer pressure is when your friends ask you to do something that could hardly resist. This negative peer pressure results in blackmailing and threatening, while indirect negative pressure is the other way of influencing in which you try to imitate what you see and hear from your peers. Though, indirect peer pressure is not as powerful as direct, still it could greatly influence your decisions and behaviors.

There are several benefits associated with peer pressure. At times, your peers inspire you to do your best and encourages you to emerge yourself as an individual. They also help you develop your positive traits and personality, motivates you in your every day life and proves that you are both beneficial to each other.

Peer pressure is also responsible for creating negative impacts on youngsters. Often observed that peers are one of the main reasons why a teenager fail in class. A bad company ruins the chances of success in many ways. Peer pressure could also increase the chances of depression that result to fear, this allows teenagers to follow their peers without a second thought. It may even end up making wrong choices in life.

Peers together with how they live and decide for their life choices could lead a person to another world that may provide a positive and negative impacts on their behavior and personality. It may affect the way they percept things whether in a good or bad way but the truth is that peer pressure gives both advantages and disadvantages to every individual.

The Positive and Negative Side of Peer Pressure You Need to Know

It is needless to say how influential peer pressure can be on an individual. Peer pressure comes in when we get influenced by the lifestyles and the ways of thinking of our peers. Almost everyone, from different walks of life, must have experienced peer pressure in some way or the other at a given point in time. Some people get positive influence from it whereas others tend to get negatively influenced. An analytical approach towards peer behaviour can be positively impactful for you. On the other hand, blindly following peers and not holding an opinion of your own might leave a negative impact on your life. Let us distinguish the positive and negative sides of peer pressure in detail.

The Positive Side:

Usually, peer pressure is used in a negative context. But there is always another side of the coin. Yes, there is also a positive peer pressure. Peer pressure cannot be termed bad always. It can also lead you to adopt good habits in life. Your peers may teach you some good things about life and encourage you to follow them. For instance, if you see your peers doing something for a noble cause, you may also like to adopt their certain habit. This will help you to change yourself for the better. Adopting good habits of your peers can actually bring about a positive change not only in your life but also your way of thinking. Peer pressure can actually leave a positive impact on your life if you carefully pick certain good habits from your peers. Since there is a huge diversity in human behaviour, exposure to peer pressure will give you a good opportunity to analyse the likes and viewpoint of different people. This will result in getting a chance to choose the best from what the masses have to offer. Peers might even inspire you in some way or the other or even persuade you to bring about a constructive change in your life. Therefore, peer pressure can also have a positive impact on your life and can actually lead you to make the right choices for yourself.

The Negative Side:

Most of you are well aware how negative peer pressure can influence one’s life but we would still like to throw some more light on this aspect. There might be a particular idea, a habit, or a lifestyle which you personally dislike and would not like to accept. However, your peer group would want to compel you to do something which is against your own will. As a result, when you take a wrong decision by succumbing to peer pressure, you may land yourself in deep sorrow and feel remorseful about the whole situation. Similarly, a large number of vices such as smoking, drinking, becoming drug addict etc., are cultivated when teenagers blindly follow their peers, putting aside their own will. Furthermore, you lose your identity by surrendering to peer pressure. You lose your lifestyle and entirely adopt your peers’ way of living. You no longer follow your own taste and are forced to like what your peers like and do what they do. This is how peer pressure can yield a wide array of negative outcomes for your life.

Therefore, it is better to learn something from peer pressure by adopting good habits and avoid succumbing to its negative side.

Minnehaha Academy Blog

Peer pressure is often used to describe how teenagers can get carried along with the crowd. It often has negative connotations. But, what if peer pressure was positive? What if it encouraged teens to do their best?

Adolescents are moving through a fascinating stage of life, transitioning from children to young adults and from their families of origin to the bigger world.

While parents still have an influence on their teenage child, the impact of their friends’ influence is growing.

High school students typically want to belong and fit in. They want the approval of their peers. They want to feel “normal.” So when friends wear certain fashions, get their hair cut according to popular styles, talk about the latest movies, or start dating, imitation is natural.

Peer pressure can come from inside a person (through thoughts and feelings about desires for approval) or from external forces (such as the influence of comments and actions of classmates). Although peer pressure is understandable, it is rarely, if ever, neutral. It can lead a young person to make constructive, healthy choices or destructive, risky ones.

Parents and other caring adults naturally hope young people will be influenced by positive peer pressure. Here are some of the ways students at Minnehaha Academy experience positive peer pressure:

  • When teenagers hear that their friends are working hard on homework, they naturally assume they should be doing the same. High school friends are naturally curious about each other’s after-school activities. Academic achievement is later showcased in class, where those who have prepared well stand out and do well. Other students notice and some will try to emulate these efforts. Healthy competition can be a great motivator.
  • The decision to get a part-time job or not may be greatly influenced by what friends are doing.
  • Group or extracurricular offerings at school, such as theater, orchestra, or competitive sports give teens ample opportunities to see each other perform publicly. Tryouts, auditions, and achieved rankings within those group activities provide a natural showcase of talent and achievement. These observations, in turn, encourage many to work hard and strive for higher levels of recognition.
  • As some high school students begin applying for college or other post-high school endeavors, others will naturally assume they should be doing the same.

What most parents of teenagers soon realize by observation is that a son or daughter’s peer group may seem to have an increasingly stronger influence during this time of life. This is one of the reasons many parents decide to make the investment of a private school education. Surrounded by other young people whose families have made education a top priority, a student at a private school will be inspired to do his or her best, both in and out of the classroom.

Minnehaha Academy provides a strong learning community that sets students up for success in countless ways. We know that providing a built-in source of positive peer pressure is one of the most important ways to encourage healthy decision making. Additionally, our teachers serve as positive role models for students of all ages. Many families find that these natural motivators inspire their children throughout their school years, and beyond.

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Peer Pressure

Peer pressure occurs when a peer group exerts direct or indirect pressure to do certain actions. The term “peer” often refers to people one knows in real life and who have a similar social status to oneself. However, peer pressure can also be exerted by the larger culture. For example, television shows can convey to the public an acceptable way to behave, even though the people on TV do not know every individual they are influencing.

Peer pressure can not only bring about changes in behavior, but also thoughts, opinions, and feelings. While peer pressure is most frequently used to describe the influence of friends on teenagers, all people can be subject to peer pressure. When a person has been pressured into unhealthy habits, a counselor can help the individual reevaluate and change their behavior.

Types of Peer Pressure

Peer pressure can be active or passive.

  • Active peer pressure describes a situation where a person tries to convince someone else to do something. For example, two friends might encourage a third friend to drive above the speed limit since “everyone drives that fast anyway.”
  • Passive peer pressure refers to modeled or mimicked behavior. Someone with several friends who text while driving may be more likely to text and drive themselves. They may reason that their friends text and drive, so it must not be so bad.

Passive peer pressure, sometimes called unspoken pressure, may have more influence over behavior than active peer pressure. Unspoken pressure may be harder to resist because it can seem easier to go along with the crowd in order to fit in, especially when there’s no explicit pressure to do something. People who don’t feel pushed into something may have a harder time finding an opportunity to refuse.

Many people consider peer pressure a negative thing, but this isn’t always the case. People, especially teens and young adults, may be more likely to do prosocial behaviors when they see people their own age doing the same things. For example, research has shown that teens with friends who volunteer are more likely to volunteer themselves.

Other examples of positive behavior might include:

  • Attending school regularly and participating in class
  • Taking time for physical activity
  • Practicing kindness and compassion

Peer Pressure Among Youth

Though peer pressure is often thought of as something that happens primarily during adolescence, research suggests peer pressure begins in elementary school, often around the age of 9.

At this age, research suggests, group dynamics begin to form among children, and some may be excluded from the larger group. Children may begin to worry about balancing a sense of loyalty to their friends with compassion and fairness to others.

Those who start out being able to stand up to peer pressure may find it becomes more difficult to go against the group over time. But it’s important to realize that not only do younger children face peer pressure, they are also able to stand up to it. Parents and teachers who are aware of peer pressure among young children can begin helping their children develop the tools to resist it earlier, which may reduce its impact.

Peer Pressure and Addiction

Research has long shown peer pressure can increase the risk someone will try drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes. Some people are more affected by peer pressure than others, just as some people are more likely to experience addiction than others. While some people may experiment with alcohol or drugs once or twice and decide it’s not for them, others who begin using a substance may find it difficult to quit. In some cases, people may continue using the substance as part of social activity, such as drinking at parties or smoking because everyone else is taking a smoke break.

Unspoken peer pressure can play a significant role in substance use.If friends are drinking, smoking, or using drugs, someone who would avoid using these substances on their own may feel that participation will help them fit in with friends. Seeing peers use substances regularly can also give the impression that the substances are safe to use or won’t have any negative effects.

Unspoken pressure to conform can play a significant role in substance use. According to a 2012 study, passive peer pressure has a greater effect on teen smoking than active pressure. In other words, teens with friends who smoke are more likely to also smoke.

Positive peer pressure, on the other hand, can help prevent substance abuse and addiction. Research suggests simply having friends who choose not to smoke, use drugs, or drink alcohol can make it less likely young people will use substances.

Peer Pressure Experiments

Numerous experiments have documented the susceptibility of even highly intelligent people to peer pressure. Some of the more well-known experiments include:

  • The Asch Conformity Experiments: These demonstrated that a test subject would give incorrect answers to a vision test if pressured to do so by peers’ incorrect answers. The test revealed that one peer exerts minimum pressure and that pressure is maximized with four peers. More than four peers exerted the same effect as four peers.
  • The Third Wave Experiment: This was an experiment by a history teacher designed to teach students about the appeal of fascism. The teacher progressively implemented more totalitarian, disciplinary, and strength-oriented measures in the classroom. By the fourth day of the experiment, the students were ready to join a nationwide totalitarian movement and showed incredible loyalty to the fake regime created by the teacher.

How to Deal with Peer Pressure

Coping with peer pressure can be tough. It can be difficult to find the right way to say no to friends and classmates, especially if you are worried about possible consequences such as bullying, social isolation, or rejection.

Consider trying some of the following when faced with peer pressure:

  • Practice responses beforehand. If you’ll be with people who are drinking or using drugs and you already know you don’t want to, think of some ways you might refuse. Bringing your own beverage is one possible solution.
  • Bring a friend. If you know you’ll be in a situation where you could face negative peer pressure, take a friend or sibling. It can help to have someone you trust who can offer support.
  • Plan a safety phrase with a friend or parent. Work out a code you can use if you need a ride home or if you feel trapped in an unsafe situation.
  • Listen to your instincts. Know you can always leave if you don’t feel comfortable. Call a friend or parent if you don’t feel safe. If you consistently find yourself in difficult situations, one solution may be to spend less time with people who pressure you to do things you don’t want to do.

If peer pressure has negatively impacted your life, a therapist can offer compassionate and confidential help.

Last Updated: 03-11-2019

Benefits of peer pressure

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