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Peer pressure refers to a person or group feeling influenced to change certain attitudes or behaviors that they wouldn’t usually change, by another person or group.
The general pressure felt is based on a very strong desire to fit in or be accepted by a particular group, and its effects can be positive or negative depending on the type of people you’re dealing with. There are three different types of peer influence one can experience: direct, indirect, and individual, and they can affect anyone of any age or gender.
However, peer group pressure (and its effects) is most commonly found among adolescents.
Peer group pressure among teens
A pre-schooler begging for a specific toy that all their friends already have. A teenager demanding to wear only a certain brand of shoes. These are examples of benign peer pressure as experienced by children and adolescents. Being influenced by others is part and parcel of growing up and finding your place in the world, of establishing an identity apart from the family group you were born into.
This is why peer influence carries so much weight during the teenage years. It plays a huge role in helping a young adult assert who they are and what they are about. Every generation comes with its own vocabulary, fashion, and music as rules for social conformity.
But influences are not always harmless, and can end up negatively impacting a teenager. ‘Hanging with the wrong crowd’ has its roots in the rebellious phase often associated with teens who begin using drugs and alcohol as a means to be accepted by a certain clique. Having a low self-esteem makes a teenager susceptible to this kind of negative influence, and is a common characteristic of those pressured into breaking rules, substance abuse, and participating in sexual activities when they otherwise would not have.
They are more susceptible to pressure by peers because rejection is an alternative they are not equipped to deal with in a healthy way. Being rejected by a group they desire to be a part of could lead to deeper issues, like depression, eating disorders, anxiety, and body dysmorphia. When peer group pressure causes a child or teenager to act out of character in a negative way, endanger their lives or the lives of others, or impacts the overall mental health of the child then it is officially a problem.
Looking out for warning signs like changes in appetite, acting withdrawn, fluctuating moods, and generally displaying traits that are out of character will help by giving you the opportunity to intervene before it is too late. Studies have shown that teenagers with strong support systems are less likely to fall prey to negative influencers than those who are left to navigate the often chaotic seas of young adulthood alone.
Adults and peer pressure
Just because peer group pressure is most rife during our teenage years, it doesn’t mean that adults escape this phenomenon. In fact, it can be said that wherever society exists, so does the pressure to conform. And this pressure does not dissipate with age. In adulthood, pressure from peers might not be as harsh as that experienced by adolescents but it can be every bit as dangerous if not kept in check. It’s fine to adopt a hobby when you’re not really into it but your friends are, or to go out drinking with the guys every now and then because how else are you going to keep updated with what’s happening?
But when striving to fit in begins to affect you negatively, that’s when peer pressure is a problem. For instance, working several hours of overtime so you can afford a lifestyle you don’t care about, but feel you need in order to keep up with friends or family. Acting against your core values and beliefs has a negative impact on your sense of self and often leads to a kind of snowball effect, where you continue making choices based on others’ influence to the detriment of your wellbeing.
In order to strike the balance between positive and negative peer pressure, it’s imperative that you remain true to yourself. Think independently, and make decisions and choices based on your own values. Seeking advice from family and friends is normal, but you shouldn’t allow it to overshadow your own instincts.
Choosing your friends should involve connecting with people who share your values and beliefs. In this way, you surround yourself with support instead of criticism. For times when this isn’t possible, try to stay mindful about who you are and what you’re about, and practice assertiveness when it comes to defending your choices.
These are just a few ways in which you can avoid becoming a victim of negative peer pressure. If you feel you need more guidance and support in this regard, please feel free to contact us.