Teens and peer pressure are a common combination, with peer pressure statistics showing that when teens’ friends ask them to smoke or drink, they are more likely to do so. One peer pressure definition describes it as occurring when a teen does something he or she normally wouldn’t do to fit in with friends.
Types of Peer Pressure
There are different types of peer pressure with teens, ranging from positive to negative, and including both spoken and silent peer pressure. These various forms of peer pressure can have a noticeable impact on teens’ choices and behaviors. Sometimes, peer pressure can result in unhealthy or dangerous behaviors, but it can also influence teens in positive ways, such as by encouraging them to put forth their best effort in school.
Negative and Positive Peer Pressure
Negative peer pressure and positive peer pressure can both influence the choices a teen makes. Negative peer pressure can persuade teens to engage in risky behaviors or break rules, whereas positive peer pressure results in teens making healthy, beneficial choices, according to the experts.
Examples of negative peer pressure include:
- Being asked to try alcohol or smoke cigarettes
- Encouraging a friend to engage in unprotected sex
- Asking a friend to participate in shoplifting from a store
- Convincing a peer to skip school
- Positive peer pressure, on the other hand, could involve any of the following:
- Encouraging a friend to try a new club at school
- Supporting a friend in studying harder and improving his or her grades
- Peers asking a friend to join a sports team
- Inviting a friend to volunteer at a charity event
Spoken Peer Pressure and Silent Peer Pressure
Peer influence can be spoken, but it can also include non-verbal peer pressure. For example, silent peer pressure involves peers modeling certain behaviors. Teens who are considered to be part of the popular crowd may be seen smoking cigarettes, leading other peers to believe that smoking is a desirable thing to do.
Silent peer pressure can also involve witnessing peers dressing a certain way or listening to a specific type of music, as seeing these behaviors can pressure others to make the same music or clothing choices. Spoken peer pressure is verbal and can involve:
- Encouragement to participate in certain activities
- Teasing for not engaging in “cool” behaviors like drinking
- Offering alcohol or cigarettes
- Asking a peer if they want to participate in an activity, like attending a party
Effects of Peer Pressure
The effects of peer pressure can be beneficial or negative. One area in which peer pressure can have a negative influence is drinking and drug use. A review of the research shows that peers have a greater influence on adolescent substance abuse than do parents. Peers can encourage friends to use drugs and alcohol or tease them for being afraid to try them, which can lead to the initiation of drinking and drug use.
The effects of peer pressure can also influence sexual behavior in teens. One study found that peers’ views about sex have a significant effect on the sexual behavior of adolescents. In addition, having peers who are sexually active is linked to engagement in risky sexual activities.
It is important to note that despite the negative effects of peer pressure, there are some benefits associated with peer influence. The previous study did find that peers’ beliefs could positively influence attitudes regarding contraception and safe sex. An additional study found that peers can have a positive influence on prosocial, or helping, behaviors. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health reports that the effects of peer pressure can influence multiple aspects of a teen’s life, including the following:
- Health-related choices, such as eating and exercise habits
- Use of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs
- Academic performance and feelings about school
- Clothing and entertainment choices
- Choices about sexual identity and romantic partners
How to Handle Peer Pressure
While peer pressure can be positive, many teens may be wondering how to resist peer pressure to engage in risky behaviors. Learning how to handle peer pressure as a teenager involves planning ahead, choosing the right friends, and keeping open communication with trusted adults.
The following strategies are important for handling peer pressure effectively:
- Learn to say no
- Know yourself and form values which is consistent with your goals and dreams
- Choose the right friends
Peer pressure is always tough to deal with, especially when it comes to sex. Some teenagers decide to have sexual relationships because their friends think sex is cool. Others feel pressured by the person they are dating. Still, others find it easier to give in and have sex than to try to explain why not. Some teenagers get caught up in the romantic feelings and believe having sex is the best way they can prove their love.