Peer Pressure in Adolescents: Contributing Factors

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'Everyone is doing it. ' If you were ever a pre-teen/teen, more often than not, you have heard that hackneyed saying. That saying is a familiar and frequent example of peer pressure in adolescents. Brett Laursen: Professor of Psychology at Florida Atlantic University, defines peer pressure as the 'influence to behave differently, that's exerted by peers.'

Most commonly occurring between pre-teenagers and teenagers aged 12-172; peer pressure is influenced by various external factors. Increased family strains, such as divorce, and yearning to be accepted and recognized are two major external factors associated with the inflation of adolescent peer pressure3. There are predominately three forms of peer pressure: indirect, direct and individual. Indirect pressure is unspoken, however, implied peer pressure. Individual peer pressure typically occurs when an adolescent is insecure and changes perspectives and appearances to be accepted and popular by peers (Peer Pressure, Play and Playground Encyclopedia). The most familiar type of peer pressure is direct, when a peer explicitly asks you to do something you would not do otherwise (Matt Gonzales, DrugRehab. com). With the presence of peer pressure undoubtedly comes the risk factors. Prominent risk factors of adolescent peer pressure include self-harm, loneliness, in addition to low self-esteem ('All About Peer Pressure').

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In spite of the countless downsides to adolescent peer pressure, there are a few benefits, such as higher grades. Peer pressure generally begins at a budding age, from toddlerhood all the way to school-age, around five to eight (“Peer Pressure. ” Encyclopedia of Children's Health) and proceeds to increase and reach the peak intensity of peer pressure around the ages of twelve to eighteen years, also known as adolescence (Lotar-Rihtaric, Martina, and Zeljka Kamenov, 2013). Starting at ages three to five years old, children begin to recognize that there are, in fact other viewpoints and principles of behavior than those that their parents have appointed and established. In such instances, their peers may pressure the child into acting on something they understand isn't accepted behavior per their parents' rules, such as eating too much sugar, or staying up past bedtime, although executing the actions nonetheless (“Peer Pressure. ” Encyclopedia of Children's Health).

As children gradually get older, around middle and high school age; thirteen to seventeen primarily; adolescents tend to spend significantly more time with peer groups than time spent with parents and other family members. Due to the fact adolescents spend more of their time with peers than with family, their peer groups are a new source of empathy, compassion and a sense of discovery and finding of their true being without the restrictions and judgements of their parents (“Peer Pressure.” Encyclopedia of Children's Health). This being said, having a strong, powerful, and trusting connection with one's peers causes the adolescent to be more susceptible and prone to surrendering to peer pressure (“Peer Pressure. ” Encyclopedia of Children's Health). Along with most things, external factors play a considerable role in the contributing factors of adolescent peer pressure. Circumstances such as divorce, family money struggles as well as single parent or blended household play significant roles in susceptibility to the pressures of peers (Matt Gonzales, DrugRehab. com). According to a study conducted at The University of Wisconsin-Madison by Laurence Steinberg in 1987; adolescents living in a single-parent home versus residing in a home with both their natural parents, or step-parents are most vulnerable to the pressure of their peers (Steinberg, Laurence. “Single Parents, Stepparents, and the Susceptibility of Adolescents to Antisocial Peer Pressure. ”).

Residing in single-parent homes initiates adolescents to be more susceptible to the pressures presented by their peers due to the fact that there are a lower number of disciplining forces in the household in comparison to two parent households (Steinberg, Laurence. “Single Parents, Stepparents, and the Susceptibility of Adolescents to Antisocial Peer Pressure. ”). Direct, indirect and individual: the three main forms of peer pressure most prevalent in adolescents today (Matt Gonzales, DrugRehab. com). Direct peer pressure, most commonly witnessed among adolescents today; a peer, typically of popularity or admirability directly asks, offers or suggests the adolescent to execute, take or perform a task (“Peer Pressure. ” Encyclopedia of Children's Health). The request is most frequently something the adolescent would not do otherwise. Indirect peer pressure, another common form, when the pressure exerted is unspoken and implied. Examples of indirect are frequently how to dress, how to act, what to say; basically, conforming to the adolescent's peers and their behaviors and outlooks (“Peer Pressure. ” Encyclopedia of Children's Health). Individual peer pressure, although not as common as direct and indirect; this occurs when the adolescent is self-concise and insecure of oneself and attempts to conform and harmonize with one's peers to be accepted and not draw any unwanted negative attention toward oneself (“Peer Pressure. ” Encyclopedia of Children's Health).

Although most understandings of peer pressure are negative; as a matter of fact, there are a few beneficial outcomes of adolescent peer pressure. Associating and spending time with peers who do homework religiously, study for tests, care about their grades, are involved in the community, and participate in extracurricular activities, tend to influence their peers to strive and exert oneself to aim for higher grades (“How Positive Peer Pressure Works.”).

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