Peer pressure is the feeling that someone must do the same thing as the others around them to be respected or liked. Though peer pressure is inevitable for people of all ages, it is experienced the most by teenagers. This pressure is a vital part of growing up, influencing behaviors, decisions, and development, it carries significant effects. In this article, we will discuss the different types of peer pressure, its effects on teens, and how to navigate its challenges.
Contrary to popular belief, there can be a positive aspect to peer pressure in addition to the negative side. Positive peer pressure can encourage teens to become more active in academics or athletics with the influence of their friends. Additionally, positive peer pressure can induce a sense of belonging and support, increased self-confidence, an introduction to positive hobbies and interests, and reinforcement of positive habits and attitudes. However, the inverse is more often true. Negative peer pressure includes both direct and indirect pressure. Direct pressure occurs when teens are forced by their peers to engage in dangerous activities. Indirect pressure is when observations and subtle conversations lead to teens to feel compelled to follow the crowd without being explicitly asked. “A teenager’s brain is only about 80 percent developed,” says Gurinder Dabhia, MD. “Teens have extra unconnected synapses in the area where risk assessment occurs and this gets in the way of judgment. In addition, the prefrontal cortex is undeveloped, which makes teens more sensitive to peer pressure and risky, impulsive behavior.”
Peer pressure can have a significant emotional impact on individuals, especially those in adolescence and young adulthood when peer influence tends to be particularly strong. Peer pressure has many effects. There are 6 predominant emotional effects which are anxiety and stress, low self-esteem, depression, guilt and regret, isolation, and anger and frustration. Anxiety and stress consist of often feeling pressured to conform to certain expectations of their friend group and this can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress. The fear of not fitting in or being rejected by peers can be emotionally distressing. The constant pressure to conform to your friend group can lead to an individual’s feeling of low self-esteem as well. Low self-esteem can lead to individuals doubting their own decisions and values, leading to negative self-worth. When an individual succumbs to negative peer pressure or feels overwhelmed by a constant need to please others, it can lead to feelings of depression. Engaging in behaviors or making decisions under the influence of peer pressure can lead to feelings of guilt and regret. People may later realize that they went against their own values or beliefs, causing emotional turmoil. In some cases, individuals who resist peer pressure may feel isolated from their peer group, which can lead to loneliness and a sense of exclusion. Individuals may become angry or frustrated with themselves for not standing up to peer pressure or for making choices they later regret. They may also feel resentment toward those who pressured them.
One of the most notable effects is behavioral changes. Teens may begin engaging more in risky activities such as substance use, reckless driving, and other wrongdoings. The ability to make decisions also gets affected. Teens begin compromising their morals and personal values to be able to fit in with their peers. The ability to make correct choices will be challenged by the want to fit in to avoid loneliness or be different from the crowd. Additionally, teens in school can also face challenges academically. As mentioned previously, peer pressure can positively impact students. Peers can often inspire teens to work harder and challenge themselves to achieve better grades, try new sports, and have new experiences. Conversely, academic performance can decline when students focus on social pressures. Peers can encourage skipping classes, cheating on assignments, neglecting homework, and disobeying teachers, which can all cause academic suffering. As peer pressure gets stronger, relationships can also be impacted. As teens get into new romantic and friendly relationships, they might find themselves in an unhealthy or abusive environment. The pressures from these relationships can be damaging to a teen and their other friendships, romantic partners, and even family.
Developing self-awareness is crucial for their emotional and psychological well-being. Self-awareness is the foundation for creating informed and independent decisions in the face of tough peer pressure. Some ways to promote self-awareness and healthy thinking habits are to have open communication with your family and friends, encourage self-reflection, discuss consequences with others or establish consequences for yourself, set boundaries and make sure those are respected, and create goals for yourself, whether that be emotional or academic goals you want o see yourself achieve. Another helpful skill to have is practicing assertiveness. The ability to say “no” can help teens establish boundaries and keep themselves away from potentially dangerous situations in the future. Assertiveness is a skill useful in many situations in life and it is important to have the strength to stand up for personal beliefs rather than suffering from due to other people's requests. Additionally, surrounding yourself with positive and supportive peers can have a significant ability to resist negative peer pressure and make healthier decisions. There are multiple ways to promote positive peer selection among teens. One possible way is to become involved in extracurricular activities you are interested in. Participating in these activities can help individuals meet like-minded peers who share the same interests and values. Additionally, promoting self-respect where you establish your value set and make sure you do not cross your own established boundaries for others is incredibly important. Finally, promoting assertiveness and being able to comfortably express your needs and feelings when necessary is vital. Lastly, having an outlet for open communication can help teens avoid peer pressure. Having a trusted adult -a parent, caregiver, or therapist, etc.- can help adolescents have a safe space and feel supported when facing this type of stress. Having support and someone to be completely open with can help teens fully understand the proper way to navigate their situation and hardships.
Peer pressure is a powerful factor that can influence our decisions and behavior. While there are negatives and positives to peer pressure, it is essential to understand its dynamics and learn to make independent choices for yourself. It’s important to remember that peer influence and pressure are a normal part of adolescence. However, by acknowledging the influence of peer pressure and beginning to develop and build on skills that will allow us to resist negative peer pressure, we can lead better and happier lives. Ultimately, we must create our own boundaries and stay true to our values which will empower us to make the best choices for ourselves.