This helps teens become aware of the problems of peer pressure in order to better cope with it. Teens are exposed to an environment where drugs, violence, sex, money and peer pressure is an ever present force that affects both their behavior and perception of life.
Why Do People Give in to Peer Pressure?
Some teenagers give in to peer pressure because they want to be liked, to fit in, or because they worry that other teens may make fun of them if they don’t go along with the group. Others may go along because they are curious to try something new that others are doing. The idea that “everyone’s doing it” may influence some kids to leave their better judgment, or their common sense, behind. Peers and Adolescence At adolescence, peer relations expand to occupy a particularly central role in young people’s lives. New types (e.g., opposite sex, romantic ties) and levels (e.g., “crowds”) of peer relationships emerge. Peers typically replace the family as the center of a young person’s socializing and leisure activities. Teenagers have multiple peer relationships, and they confront multiple “peer” cultures that have remarkably different norms and value systems. The adult perception of peers as having one culture or a unified front of dangerous influence, is inaccurate.
More often than not, peers reinforce family values, but they have the potential to encourage problem behaviors as well. Although the negative peer influence is overemphasized, more can be done to help teenagers experience the family and the peer group as mutually constructive environments.
Here are some facts about parent, adolescent and peer relations:
- During adolescence, parents and adolescents become more physically and psychologically distant from each other. This normal distancing is seen in decreases in emotional closeness and warmth, increases in parent-adolescent conflict and disagreement, and an increase in time adolescents spend with peers.
- Increases in family strains (economic pressures, divorce, etc.) have prompted teenagers to depend more on peers for emotional support. By the high school years, most teenagers report feeling closer to friends than parents. Stress caused by work, marital dissatisfaction, family break-up caused by divorce, entering a step-family relationship, lower family income or increasing expenses, all produce increased individual and family stress.
- Parent-adolescent conflict increases between childhood and early adolescence, although in most families, its frequency and intensity remain low. Typically, conflicts are the result of relationship negotiation and continuing attempts by parents to socialize their adolescents, and do not signal the breakdown of parent-adolescent relations. Parents need to include adolescents in decision-making and rule-setting that affects their lives.
- In 10 to 20 percent of families, parents and adolescents are in distressed relationships characterized by emotional coldness and frequent outbursts of anger and conflict. Unresolved conflicts produce discouragement and withdrawal from family life. Adolescents in these families are at high risk for various psychological and behavioral problems.
- Youth gangs, commonly associated with inner-city neighborhoods, are becoming a recognizable peer group among youth in smaller cities, suburbs, and even rural areas. Gangs are particularly visible in communities with a significant portion of economically disadvantaged families and when the parent is conflictual, distant or unavailable.
- Formal dating patterns of two generations ago have been replaced with informal socializing patterns in mixed-sex groups. This may encourage casual sexual relationships that heighten the risk of exposure to AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
How to Walk Away From Peer Pressure?
It is tough to be the only one who says “no” to peer pressure, but your child can do it. Paying attention to his own feelings and beliefs about what is right and wrong can help him know the right thing to do. Inner strength and self-confidence can help him stand firm, walk away, and resist doing something when he knows better. It can really help to have at least one other peer, or friend, who is willing to say “no,” too. This takes a lot of the power out of peer pressure and makes it much easier to resist.
It’s great to have friends with values similar to your child’s who will back him up when he doesn’t want to do something. He should try to help a friend who’s having trouble resisting peer pressure. It can be powerful for one kid to join another by simply saying, “I’m with you – let’s go.” Even if your child is faced with peer pressure while he is alone, there are still things he can do. He can simply stay away from peers who pressure him to do stuff he knows is wrong. He can tell them “no” and walk away.