If there is one inescapable aspect of being a teenager, it is peer group pressure. We have all either experienced it, or will do so at some time in our lives. It doesn’t matter what religion or ethnic community we belong to, or which country we live in. Peer pressure is universal. It can mean pressure to conform to a certain group norm, or it can be the pressure to do something. Why is peer group pressure more of an issue during the teen years, and how can we develop strategies to cope with it positively?
As children reach the teenage years, they begin to spend more and more time with friends, and less time with their family. We all know how important our friends become at this time in our lives, and how embarrassing our parents can be! It is because of the need for recognition and acceptance from our friends that we become so susceptible to their influence. Not all peer group pressure is negative! Our friends can also have a positive influence on us. It is therefore very important to choose our friends carefully.
Try to make friends with others who do well at school, show respect for others, and do not abuse drugs and alcohol, or smoke. A good way to “measure” if your friend is good for you or not, is to check in on how you feel after you have spent time with them. Ask yourself if you feel a better person for having been with them. Do you feel positive , motivated, and inspired? Do you feel like you are a nicer person? Or do you feel angry, negative, and critical of everyone ? Do you like yourself for who you become when you are with them? If not,then it may be time to seriously consider finding some new friends! As difficult and as painful as this may be, it is definitely worth the long term pay-offs it will have.
When teenagers make poor choices in life, their parents, and sometimes even the teens themselves, may blame it on peer pressure. While peer pressure is a reality, it is important to learn how to take responsibility for our own actions, and not to play “the blame game.” Having said this though, there are certain “risk factors” for peer pressure, personality traits that may make us more prone to give in to peer pressure. Gender and age are factors. Boys are more likely than girls to give in to peer pressure, especially when dares or risk situations are involved. Younger teens are more easily influenced by others than older teens.
Peer pressure is felt most in about eighth or ninth grade. Level of self-confidence, individual personality, and degree of maturity, will all play a role in determining whether or not we give in to peer pressure. It can also depend on the situation: being with a close friend, or in a small group of friends, as opposed to being in a large group such as at school. The need for acceptance, approval, and belonging, is a very real and strong need during the teens. It is therefore very important to develop a healthy and positive self-image, and the skills needed to be able to say “No” to risky and negative behavior.