If you’ve ever felt any version of peer pressure, you’re far from alone. There are a countless amount of ways you can come across peer pressure whether it’s positive, negative, subtle, or obvious. The natural desire to fit in can play a large part in our decision making. In Love to Know on Statistics on Peer Pressure, it’s stated that in a publication by Parent Further, that on average, only 10% of individuals have never felt peer pressure. In the same study, 28% of students admitted they felt giving in to peer pressure helped them improve their social reputation and 50% confessed to making fun of another student just because their friend did. Giving in to peer pressure doesn’t make you a bad person at all, it makes you human, but if you understand where the pressure comes from and why we have the desire to give in (even if we know we shouldn’t) it can make doing the right thing easier.
Believe it or not, peer pressure can be found in groups of children as early as 2 years old. Even toddlers follow specific behaviors to fit in. This behavior is noticed all the way in to adulthood, it’s just human nature to want to be liked!
A peer is defined by Kids Health: For Teens in Peer Pressure, as anyone close to your age. You can find peers in your community, school, church, sports team, and anyone you consider a close friend. As we grow older, we tend to prioritize our social lives and focus on our friends more than our home life. In doing so, we also change the main source of where our influence comes from. Before, we would adopt attitudes towards things and make decisions that we're similar to our parents but with spending less time at home, it’s easier to be influenced by peers. There are many reasons we find ourselves giving in to peer pressure. The most common reasons are so we fit in and can gain acceptance, as well as wanting to avoid feeling uncomfortable or awkward in a given situation. Resisting peer pressure is hard for anyone to do, but Kids Health explains there are certain traits in a person that can make it harder for them to not give in. If a person is new to a group or doesn’t feel accepted by their current group, the desire to fit in and receive approval is extremely strong. Additionally, if an individual struggles with low confidence, self-esteem, and tends to follow more than lead. Lastly, if a person is unsure of or new to peer pressure, it can be hard to recognize what is happening, so often they will give in, not realizing they were pressured to say yes in the first place.
We can be pressured to do anything from wearing certain clothes to driving while drinking, and everything in between. Stress will often come from these situations because you are feeling pressured to do something you don’t want to do or feel you’re not ready to do. Peer pressure situations can include shoplifting, trying drugs, smoking cigarettes, drinking, taking dangerous risks, having sex before you’re ready, or even convincing you to act a certain way towards something or someone (Example: Being disrespectful towards your parents.) Love to know adds that some kids have even been pressured to self-harm or commit suicide. Peer pressure doesn’t always have to be drastic, as I mentioned, wearing different clothes, but being pressured to do anything is dangerous as it could lead to drinking before you’re ready, or experimenting with self-harm.
Having peers can be a wonderful thing. Finding where you fit in can offer you a sense of acceptance and belonging. Close friends can offer feedback, advice, encouragement, and new experiences that benefit your life significantly. It may be tricky finding friends that will influence you positively but in the meantime, knowing how to confidently say no when the pressure is on will take the pressure off of you.
In Kids Health: For Teens, “Peer Pressure,” they share a really great list of how to stand up to peer pressure. For a detailed breakdown of each, you can read the article listed in Why We Give In, but here are the basics:
“Are you kidding me? My parents would kill me if I did that.”
But above all else, stay true to yourself and realize you are never obligated to say yes, no matter what anyone tries to tell you. Never do something you’re uncomfortable with or deep down, know you shouldn't. If you can stand up to peer pressure, you can become a leader and have the chance to make a difference and influence others - positively!
Peer Pressure can lead to many consequences, often because logical thought is not in play. In Reach Out: Peer Pressure and Teenagers, they mention the jeopardy in getting hurt or hurting others by being pressured to say yes to drugs, alcohol, or partaking in dangerous behavior. Besides the chance of getting harmed or picking up addicting habits, peer pressure can also lead to someone becoming distracted at school and growing distance from their other friends and family. Oftentimes, if a person is pressured into doing things they ordinarily wouldn’t do, they can experience a change in behavior and attitude. Even though it is hard to make a decision that will make us unpopular, there are steps you can take to give yourself the best odds in making the best decision.