Constant warnings and hypothetical “what would you do” situations have left most with at least a basic idea of peer pressure. The Encyclopedia of Children’s Health defines peer pressure as “the influence of a social group on an individual.” This influence is especially prevalent among teenagers.
It’s not uncommon for teenagers to experience a desire to differentiate themselves and establish personal identity. Social interactions become more important as the effort to develop themselves increases which causes teenagers to value their social status among their peers and eventually fall victim to peer pressure. Peer pressure tends to cause conflict in the life of a teenager as the subsequent feelings of not fitting in or not meeting certain standards overwhelm their mindsets. Peer pressure usually results in high stress and hurtful experiences that take a toll on the victims. Statistics show that between 20%-30% of adolescents report symptoms of depression because of peer pressure.
In a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), teens played a driving video game with and without peers present. The research showed that the number of risks taken while playing the game doubled in the presence of a peer, such as running red lights and driving above the speed limit. This indicates that the possibility of impulsive and potentially dangerous behavior in teens is more probable when their friends are around whether the pressure is direct or socially implied. However, peer pressure can appear in several forms, including in academic and social spheres.
“A friend can definitely influence aspects of their peer’s life for both better and worse. We have seen friends “motivate/influence” a peer to work harder, to join clubs or classes so that more time is spent together,” said the 9th and 10th grade Guidance Team regarding the influence of peers on the behavior of a student.
“As this is a very competitive environment, it is not uncommon to hear that students are comparing themselves to others academically. This can sometimes cause unwanted stress if the peer doing the comparing is not doing as well as the other student,” the Guidance Team continued.
Peer pressure remains a prevalent issue among teenagers in several different realms, whether the pressure is intentional or not. Learning from past experiences, confiding in a trusted adult when necessary, and forming one’s own identity work to combat the detrimental effects of peer pressure and promote a more positive environment.