In simplest terms, peer pressure is defined as pressure or influence from a person’s peers. Peers are those of the same age and social group as the individual. Peer pressure often involves pressure to engage in certain activities or conform to certain standards set by the group. Pressure could include dressing a certain way, only associating with certain people, or using drugs. Peer pressure can take many forms and is not limited just to kids. The following information describes what peer pressure is, different types of peer pressure, the causes of peer pressure, and some of the differences between adult and child peer pressure.
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Different Types of Peer Pressure
Active and Passive
When trying to learn exactly what peer pressure is, it is helpful to know about the difference between active and passive peer pressure.
- Active peer pressure may include a teenager being offered a drink at a party, or being asked why he or she doesn’t have a drink.
- Passive peer pressure may include a teenager listening to others talk about drinking and feel the need to participate in order to fit in.
Normative, Informational and Facilitative Influence
More specific types of peer pressure include normative influence, informational influence, and facilitative influence:
- Normative influence is the most general type of peer pressure, and the kind that causes individuals to engage in certain behaviours such as drinking or taking drugs to fit into the group.
- Informational influence is when people change their beliefs or opinions to agree with the opinions of a certain group. This often happens in areas where there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong, such as listening to particular types of music or wearing certain clothes.
- Facilitative influence is when being in a certain group make it easy to engage in certain behaviours. A teenager who socializes with others who smoke may start smoking simply because of easy access to cigarettes.
Negative and Positive Peer Pressure
Influence from peers is a natural part of development, especially during adolescence. During the teenage years young people are developing their own set of beliefs and opinions, and are becoming more independent from their parents. Some types of pressure can be positive, such as making an individual feel that they should participate in things like sports, clubs, or faith-based activities. This is why having friends that are engaging in positive activities is so crucial for teens and young adults. A person who has friends talking about good grades or involvement in volunteer work can be influenced in a positive and lasting way.
What Causes Peer Pressure?
Anyone who has been around others in almost any type of social situation has experienced the influence of their peers. Human beings have an overwhelming desire to fit in and be accepted by others. There are several specific reasons why people give into peer pressure. Sometimes it’s simply out of curiosity. Individuals will try something others suggest just to find out if it’s as fun and exciting as everyone else is making it out to be. Young individuals coming from troubled homes may be more susceptible to peer pressure. Families that are dysfunctional and lack a clear set of guidelines or belief structures may produce children who are more likely to turn to social groups for their norms and guidelines. Most of the time, however, the overwhelming need to be accepted among those in the same age or social group is what causes individuals to give into peer pressure, whether it’s positive or negative.
Adult and Child Peer Pressure
Although most people associate peer pressure with teens and young adults, it can happen at any age. Even toddlers may see other children doing something they know is wrong and simply follow along to be part of the group. The same holds true for adults who are long past their teenage years. An example of positive peer pressure that adults may experience would include desiring a good, full-time job after several of their friends have secured such jobs. As life progresses the form peer pressure takes may change slightly, but it’s almost always still there. Some adults may buy a certain make of car they really can’t afford because others in the peer group are driving the same model. Sending their children to a specific school is another way adults influence each other.
Signs of Problems with Peer Pressure
When parents see that a child is engaged in activities or acting in a way that goes against the family’s value system, the child may be acting under the influence of peer pressure. According to Aspen Education Group there are several signs that can indicate a teenager has been exposed to negative peer influences. A few of these include suddenly socializing with a new groups of friends, suddenly lacking interest in schoolwork or activities, changing the way he or she talks and/or dresses, and receiving phone calls at odd hours.
How to Deal With Negative Peer Pressure
Too many parents in our culture want to be their children’s buddy instead of their parent. Parents must be willing to set clear boundaries and stick to them even if the child protests. Most children crave structure and order. Most feel safer in a clear, structured family environment. Kids with higher self-confidence may be able to more easily resist peer pressure. A parent should encourage a child to participate in activities they enjoy and excel at, which can build self-confidence. Parents need to get to know their children’s friends. If possible, having the home become an after-school hangout is a good way to get to know with whom the child is associating, and may even keep them from engaging in negative activities. Finally, parents need to take the time to talk to their children about situations they may face before they happen. Being prepared with certain things to say or do before peer pressure occurs may help a child stand up against it and make wiser choices.