Peer pressure often comes with a bunch of negative connotations. It has long been blamed for alcoholism, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, school failure, tobacco abuse, and other unfortunate events that could potentially befall any teenager.
But what is it about peer pressure that forces someone to engage in risky behaviors? Why does it matter so much, especially in adolescents?
The truth of the matter is, peer pressure happens to everyone of us at some point in our lives. Some are good peer pressure, but many can be identified as negative peer pressure.
In his book Living with Peer Pressure and Bullying, Dr. Thomas Paul Tarshis defined peer pressure as the influence of other people’s perceptions on your decisions or actions. It can enter our lives in several different ways, such as in the form of comments made by classmates or peers outside of school; exposure to material items; and the pressure to perform certain behaviors.
With teenagers, peer pressure is deemed important because the choice made when dealing with it influences the success or failure of their future. As a teenager, the opinions of your friends and classmates in your choice of clothes, music or school becomes more important than that of your parents. The same goes for the more serious topics, such as drugs, alcohol, and sexual activity.
Dr. Tarshis explained some of the reasons why teens are forced to give in to negative peer pressures, which include the concern of losing a friend or making a new one; the concern about being teased; the fear of being left out or being bullied. Some teens who may feel that the consequences of not giving in to peer pressure are worse than feeling guilty about doing something that’s wrong.
Teens who are at higher risk of giving in to peer pressure are those who have poor self-esteem and confidence; poor family support; lack of hobbies or interests; lack of friends; and poor school performance. Kids who just moved to a new school or city are also vulnerable to giving in to peer pressure for the sake of gaining approval and acceptance.