--Original published at Marlee's Psych 105 Blog
In today’s world, it is nearly impossible to escape peer pressure. It is not tied to race, gender, or age. It is all encompassing and something everyone must cope with on a daily basis. It can affect anyone from teens to college students, even parents. Peer pressure or peer influence is “when you choose to do something you wouldn’t otherwise do, because you want to feel accepted and valued by your friends” (Peer Pressure and Influence Teenagers). This idea can also be referred to as normative social influence. Normative social influence results from a person’s desire to gain approval or avoid disapproval. Peer influence doesn’t always have to involve doing something you don’t want to.
When we hear the word peer pressure we instantly assume it’s a bad situation, but it’s not always the case, peer influence can also be a positive thing. Someone could be peer pressured into listening to different music or even into becoming more assertive. These are not bad things, but they might be out of character for the individual. Being said, there are also bad types of peer pressure. Teens and college students can be pressure into trying drugs or drinking. Most people will give in to the pressure because they want to conform to the group or be “cool”. Conformity occurs when we adjust our behavior or thinking to coincide with a group standard. This sense of conformity is very present in teens and young adults. Today’s world revolves around appearances. Everyone sees the fake wall we put up on social media. We are constantly trying to mimic other, whether it be their appearance or their lifestyle, but sadly we are trying to reach a fake standard. This constant desire to reach approval can be seen in some age groups more than others.
Upon arrival to college you are instantly faced with so many new things. You are away from you parents for the first time, meeting new people and making new friends, but most importantly you are making decisions as an adult. In college your parents are no longer there to baby you and make sure you are on the right track; the cards are in your hands now. With this new sense of freedom comes a lot of students wanting to push their boundaries and try new things while also making an image for themselves. While it will be hard to go through your day without being peer pressured at some point, it is important to know ways to fight it. One way to cope with peer pressure is finding a group of friends who share the same interests as you; people you know who will not force you to do things you do not want to do. Another approach you could take could be just a simple “thanks but no thanks” response. Sometimes all it takes is just a clear no to tell the person you are not interested. These are both effective ways to avoid and address the situation directly.
Another population which faces peer pressure are teens. Teens are undergoing one of the biggest changes; going from being a child to a young adult. At this stage in life teens are trying to find themselves. This involves trying new things and even taking risks here-and-there. The teenage years are heavily influenced by pop culture: music, clothes, makeup, hairstyles. Everyone wants to do what their friends are doing even if it’s not what they would typically do. It’s all about finding a balance and making sure you do not loose sense of who you really are. It is important to talk to your parents during this time. Ask your parents for ways to say no. You might need these in certain situations when you are feeling influenced to do something you do not want to. It is also important to have a good self-esteem. This can allow you to feel confident in your decisions and not feel trapped when faced with peer pressure. Now it’s very easy in theory to say you need to have good self-esteem and talk to your parents, but in reality, we all have things we wish we could change about ourselves as well as situations we aren’t comfortable talking to our parents about. These are things which will be helpful if you can practice them.
Finally, one group we don’t think about when we hear the word peer pressure are parents. Being a parent, you are constantly being judged and criticized how you raise your child. As a parent you are not only making decisions for yourself, but also your child. For example, your child comes home from school one day begging you for the new iPhone which just came out because they still have the iPhone 5. He says his friends have been making fun of him for having such and old phone, but in reality, you don’t have the money to purchase the phone. You decide to pick up extra shifts, so you can make the money to buy the phone as a surprise, but because of this you’re not home as much and cannot attend any of the school functions you normally would have. So, the other parents begin to question your parenting skills. They tell you, you need to be more involved in your child’s life. It all turns into a vicious cycle. The peer pressure in this situation is coming from two angles: the peer pressure on your child as well as the peer pressure from other parents. In order to deal with this, it is important to make compromises as well as look inward at the situation. Both of these are effective depending upon the situation you’re dealing with and if you want to benefit your child or yourself.
Website 1 (Teens): https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/behaviour/peers-friends-trends/peer-influence
Website 2 (Parents): http://blogs.uwhealth.org/kids/2017/05/parent-peer-pressure/
Website 3 (College Students): https://www.bestcollegereviews.org/dealing-peer-pressure-college/