Peer Pressure

Basics:

  • Peer pressure may be a normal part of growing up.
  • May be part of how children and adolescents learn how to become part of a group and the larger society.
  • Peer pressure becomes a problem when it drives the teenager to do something s/he doesn’t want to do or something s/he would not normally do.
  • Some teenagers may be more vulnerable to peer pressure than others.

Risks:

  • Adolescents who are more likely to be vulnerable to peer pressure are those, who are –
  • Experiencing lack or loss of support from their primary social groups (i.e., family, church, school)
  • Experiencing disruptions or severe change in their environments (i.e., divorce, death of a parent or close family member, family financial crisis)
  • Experiencing emotional turmoil (i.e., , prolonged sadness, grief, depression, shame)
  • Adolescents who are experiencing peer pressure, and who lack the skills to resist, may be more likely to –
  • Experiment with drugs and alcohol
  • Engage in high risk sexual behaviors
  • Become involved in risky or dangerous behaviors (i.e., crime, gangs)

Responses:

  • Understand and communicate the relationship between peer pressure and normal adolescent development
  • Explore alternative options to what the teenager is feeling pressured about
  • Realistically explore the risks associated with and the ultimate outcomes in giving into some forms of peer pressure
  • Assist adolescents in developing positive social connections which will “pressure” in a positive way

Prevention:

  • Assist teenagers in developing the ability to give themselves permission to say “no” to unwanted behavior (e.g., sexual contacts, drugs, crime, cheating)
  • Teach adolescents effective skills for handling and refusing peer pressure
  • Practice these refusal skills as they apply to specific situations typically encountered by teens
  • Teach and practice assertiveness (resources, Manuel Smith’s When I Say No, I Feel Guilty or Alberti and Emmons’ Your Perfect Right: Assertiveness and Equality in Your Life and Relationships)