Peer Pressure during adolescence Tyrone Taiwo PSYC4020 6. 00D Seminar in Social Psychology April 6, 2011 Noreen Stuckless Peer Pressure during Adolescence This paper will discuss aspects of peer pressure during adolescence. Peer pressure is defined as the social influence that others have on an individual, in this case adolescents. The pressure is applied in order to get an individual to believe or act in a certain way. The form of peer pressure is acted out by ones peer group against other peers and as a result it leads to a change of behavior.
According to Erik Erikson (1973) theory of social development, the adolescent stage is categorized as the transition from childhood to adulthood. The term teenagers can also be used to describe adolescents as well. Erik Erickson (1973) defines that in this stage adolescents struggle with social interactions in an attempt to find their own identity. To elaborate further, Erikson (1973) proposed that most adolescents strive to achieve a sense of identity in regards to who they are and the direction that they take in life. Types of Peer Pressure
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There are three main types of peer pressure which are categorized as positive, neutral and negative peer pressure (Bernstein, 2005). Positive peer pressure is described as the circumstances in which peers persuade and promote beneficial actions for one another. For instance, having a friend to persuade another teenager to stay home and study for an exam. Neutral peer pressure occurs naturally, it is described as the tendency to follow a crowd which does not perform harm to oneself or others. An example of neutral peer pressure is when friends encourage a teenager to go to a movie that each have been excited to see.
Although positive and neutral peer pressure has major influences on an adolescent, this paper will focus mainly on negative peer pressure. Negative peer pressure occurs when a group persuade someone into doing something harmful or making a dangerous decision. This paper will provide many examples of negative peer pressure and its influences. Why study peer pressure? The topic of peer pressure is of particular interest to me because peer pressure can lead to harmful effects on an individual and even fatal depending on the outcome.
As one progresses through the many stages of development, almost each and every individual will experience peer pressure. In my youth, I’ve always felt pressured to do certain tasks or to “follow the crowd”. I wanted to study and examine the underlying forces that are behind pressure by one’s peers. Not only did I want to investigate important themes of peer pressure; I also wanted to provide information to the reader and to children so that they will not become a victim of negative peer pressure. I feel that peer pressure is a topic that is not taken seriously.
I feel that it motivates us to strive for success or failure or hinder good judgment. After gathering enough data on the concept of peer pressure, I want to be able to implement a workshop or intervention that will help adolescents to become aware of peer pressure and how an individual can act in a peer pressured situation. In this paper I’m going to be discussing specific themes relating to peer pressure. These themes include how peers are pressured to join gangs, use alcohol and drugs, and pressures to have sex. Before I discuss these major themes, I will first the address the concept of peer pressure and why adolescents are highly prone.
I will also include a hypothetical intervention to deal with peer pressure during adolescence. Peer Pressure Peer pressure typically depends on the peer group that teens chose to associate with or someone they aspire to (Kaplan, 1987). Some teens choose to follow a popular crowd, because they fear being deemed as less “popular” and being ostracized by their fellow peers. There is also the pressure of teens that are not in a popular group but would like to be associated with a popular group. These teens in particular are prone to go along with ideas in the hope of gaining acceptance and the social status they desire (Kaplan, 1987).
In other groups, there lies a person whose personality dominates over others and his or her influence is used to lead the other group members into trouble. In addition, there are teens that are not popular but are categorized as a group. They are usually known by stereotypical labels such as punks, geeks, losers, bums, etc (Kaplan, 1987). Teens may be submitting to different sets of pressures when they portray the popular trend (Kaplan, 1987). While adolescents are in the process of trying to belong to a group, many fail to see the consequences of giving in to peer pressure (Boonstra, 2010).
The negative effects of peer pressure not only wear down one’s identity but it is the main reason for some of the incorrect choices made in an individual’s life (Allen et al, 2005). Many adolescents are unaware of the bad habits they are getting themselves into and the severity of some choices made as a result of peer pressure (Allen et al, 2005). Peer pressure remains to be a serious issue, which can obstruct the growth and normal development of an adolescent and is not something that should be easily dismissed as a temporary stage in life.
There are always students forming groups in schools. As long as there is one “cool group” at school peer pressure is inevitable to occur (James, 2011). A “cool group” could be seen as a group of individuals or teens who all the things that they are not supposed to do (James, 2011). Teens that are considered to be too sincere at their studies are often ridiculed by those of the “cool” group (James, 2011). They may feel pressure to join a group in order to collect the title of “cool” and to reduce the mockery.
That’s why it’s important to know that peer pressure is nothing but the desire of adolescents to be perceived as “cool” in order to fit in a particular group. Why adolescents? As children develop and proceed through their adolescent stages of life they begin to spend less time with family and more of their time with friends (Berndt, 1979). As a result, adolescents become more vulnerable to the influences of their peers. During adolescence, children become actively involved in risk taking behaviors as they are trying to establish their independence (Berndt, 1979).
This makes them highly susceptible of engaging in dangerous activities and/or becoming addicted to substances (alcohol and drugs) especially if there is peer pressure to do so. As I’ve mentioned before, teens are compelled to keep a close eye on their peers. Teens in the adolescent stage are not yet sure of whom they are and because of this they struggle to find their own identities (Crockett et al, 1984). Teens may become insecure and curious about how their peers behave. In this respect they try to understand themselves by trying to model friends and see ow they resolve the same issues (Crockett et al, 1984). The very nature of the adolescent stage is shaped around the influence of friends. Being part of a group confirms their sense of worth and the need for support as they move toward adulthood (Berndt, 1979). As the distance between friends and parents becomes discrete, friends become the primary source of confidence and reliance for advice. Close friends become the ideal figure for advice because they are most likely to affirm the individual’s feelings and patiently listen to their thoughts on life.
In a normal situation, a close group of friends provide the foundation for friendship and comfort. But in a bad situation, friends often provide bad or false advice to teens instead of having an individual think for themselves (James, 2011). Some teenagers don’t realize when they become extremely dependent on their friends. In this sense it robs adolescents of becoming independent and having individuality (James, 2011). Being pressured to join gangs There are many possible reasons for adolescents to join a gang, but one of the primary reasons is peer pressure.
In the developmental stages of adolescents there is a strong need for unity and for acceptance which is why gangs would be an easy resort (Berndt, 1979). Media displays violence against those who refuse to join gangs as well. However, in reality injury for refusal to join a gang is minimal, especially if the teens resist politely, without “disrespecting” the gang or its members (Bouchard & Spindler, 2010). Sharkey (2011) shows that those who accept joining a gang are often assaulted as part of a ritual initiation into a lifestyle of violence (et al, 2011).
Unsurprisingly, many members of gangs are teenagers and young adults (Bouchard & Spindler, 2010). According to studies conducted by Bouchard & Spindler (2010) in the United States, there are as much as 40% of gang members who are below the age of 18. Questions arise as to why teens decide to join gangs? Although there are numerous explanations, one of the most recurring explanations is peer pressure (Sharkey et al, 2011). To fully understand why teens join gangs one would have to unobtrusively observe an environment for a good amount of time.
In some gang oriented communities, gangs are almost equivalently seen as a cool club (Alleyne & Wood, 2010). Those who are not affiliated with gang members are seen as outcasts and members of the gang avoid those who are not part of their club (Alleyne & Wood, 2010). In order to be “cool”, accepted and liked by peers many teenagers will join a gang. Being initiated into a gang is a continuing cycle of peer pressure. To elaborate, if an individual joins a gang, he or she will try to persuade others to join the gang as well.
While most adolescents have not figured out their own identity, they have special concern about how peers judge and accept them (Crockett et al, 1984). Interactional theory states that gang membership results from a reciprocal relationship between the individual and peer groups, social structures (i. e. gang-dominated neighborhood or robust gang presence), or a learning environment that fosters and reinforces delinquency (Thornberry, 1987). Many teenagers do resist the temptation of gang membership, but for others, the influence can be harder to resist. Being Pressured to Consume Drugs and Alcohol
According to Arora (2004) study, one of the most important issues that teenagers face is drugs and alcohol. Statistics show that 3 in 10 teenagers will become a victim of pressure by consuming drugs, tobacco, and alcohol (Caroll, 2006). Teens also indicated fitting in, personal appearance and popularity (17%) to be additional problems (Arora, 2004). Adolescents who were between the ages of 13-15 were more likely to indicate drugs and alcohol, peer pressure, and violence as the pinnacle of their problems; however those who were between the ages of 16-17 were more likely to indicate education and youth apathy (Arora, 2004).
Alcohol is presumed to be the drug of choice among adolescents because it is ascribed as “cool” and “easy” to obtain (Kaplan, 1987). Some teens indicated that they are influenced by the media because it often characterizes teens as beer-drinking partiers so some adolescents may feel pressure to live up to that ideal (Arora, 2004). Adolescents indicate that they engage in such behaviours because they think everybody else does it (James, 2011). Peer pressure can cause people in groups to act differently and make judgments they would never do on their own, for example, the Asch conformity experiments (1955).
The major reason is because adolescents that are in a group tend to lose at least some of their identity and control over situations (James, 2011). Teenagers spend most of their time with their peers and less with family members. Friends who have known each other for long, may pressure there friends into using drugs or alcohol (Caroll, 2006). Friends are very influential and it is often hard for adolescents to say no especially with regards to alcohol and drugs (Caroll, 2006). The influence of friends can make teens doubt themselves and make wrong decisions. Pressure to Have Sex
As mentioned earlier peer pressure is tough to deal with, especially with regards to sex. Some teenagers may feel pressure to have sexual encounters because their friends are “doing it” or are pressured by the person they are dating (Boonstra, 2010). Some teens find it easier to give into the pressure of having sex rather than resisting (Boonstra, 2010). Teens that feel they are in romantic relationships believe that having sex is the best way to prove their love. Adolescent boys in particular, feel pressure to have sex usually without condoms (Arora, 2004).
Studies conducted by the Kaiser survey reported more than half of 15-to-17-year-olds indicated they have been with someone in a sexual way (Meckler, 2003). In addition, despite those who indicated that they have refrained from sex, nearly a third of the respondents reported being intimate with their partner (Meckler, 2003). Contrary to the common belief that boys pressure girls, the Kaiser study also reported that boys face pressure to have sex, often from male friends (Meckler, 2003). Compared with 23% of girls in the Kaiser study, one in three boys (33%) aged 15-17 admitted they felt pressure to have sex by other peers (Meckler, 2003).
One explanation to this finding is that boys may feel expectations to be sexually active by peers. Studies show that teenagers are losing their virginity at a younger age (Bernstein, 2005). The common belief is that in order to be accepted or well-liked by boys, a girl must be keen to have sex, otherwise they become the base of mockery and ridicule. On the other hand, boys who refuse to partake in sexual activities with a girl are considered weak. Recent studies indicate that oral sex is becoming more prevalent amongst teenagers (Bernstein, 2005).
The problem lies in peers persuading teens that oral sex isn’t a life-threatening issue and therefore teens become pressured by false information (Bernstein, 2005). The peer pressure in dealing with sex is almost identical to that of alcohol and drugs (Craven, 2011). Among gender differences to have sex, Bernstein (2005) reported that teen girls fear boys will have animosity towards them if they don’t give in to their sexual desires. Boys feel that they need to lose their virginity in order to be affiliated with the “cool” group (Bernstein, 2005). As a result boys feel pressure to have sex before they are ready.
According to research conducted by Bernstein (2005), 63 percent of teens agree that waiting to have sex is a good idea but few people actually do and follow that belief (Bernstein, 2005). Hypothetical Intervention The issue at hand is that peer pressure leads to unsafe decisions. As we have seen earlier in the paper, unsafe decisions are those that lead to gang violence, alcohol and drugs, and sexual activity. It is crucial to target these decisions because not only can adolescents inflict harm to others but they may inflict harm on themselves as well.
My hypothetical intervention will be called Youth Making Better Decisions (YMBD) which would essentially be an afterschool program. It will target adolescents in grades 8-12 aged 13-18. It will be applied to public schools in high priority areas. YMBD will take place 3 times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) usually about a half hour after last period classes. YMBD will have four primary goals. The first goal would be to increase autonomy. This is first because behaviour and attitudes are often influenced by peers. Increasing autonomy amongst adolescence would make teens confident in themselves and in their abilities.
The second goal would be to promote effective decision making skills in adolescents. This would help them understand the consequences of their behaviour. The third goal would be to increase knowledge on gangs, alcohol and drugs, and sex. Once teens are aware they will know how to act in pressured situations. The fourth goal is to encourage positive peer pressure situations. This would allow teens to be satisfied with the decisions they make while having fun. YMBD will be approximately 2 hours long that composes of three sections. These sections include discussions, activities for adolescents, and recreational time.
During the first half hour which would ideally start at about 4 o’clock pm adolescents would be involved in a class discussion. This would engage many students in conversation and communication. The discussion will last approximately 30 minutes. The discussions will be based on topics related to peer pressure. The discussions will encourage teens to mention their peer pressured experiences that way suggestions could be given by facilitators. Please refer to appendix A for discussion questions that will be asked during this section. During this section homework will also be distributed to adolescents as well.
Refer to appendix B for an example of homework assignments. The next section will take place after discussions. It will take about a half hour for this section to complete which would usually start approximately 4:30pm. The second section will include activities for adolescents such as role-playing. Role-playing will have adolescents act out scenes and situations of peer pressure. The facilitator would then instruct effective ways of handling pressures that way adolescents could carry it out in the real world. Most importantly the activities would provide confidence in having adolescents learning how to say no.
To keep adolescents entertained and looking forward to the afterschool program recreational time will be given. This time will start after all the activities are completed usually around 5 o’clock and last about half hour. Basketball, soccer, tennis or floor hockey is activities that adolescents can participate in during this time. If adolescents chose to use this time to study or compose music adolescents can do so during this period. In addition, the YMBD will have motivational speakers come in to share experiences on peer pressure and to give advice. Motivational speakers will come to speak once a month during the discussion section.
They will talk about real life stories that they faced as a result of peer pressure. In particular, they will talk about solutions and tactics to avoid being pressured in situations. Finally, to help ensure that adolescents left the program with useful information tests will be administered about once a month on what they have learned. Conclusion As we have explored, peer pressure comes in many forms which are positive, neutral, or negative. This paper focused on negative peer pressure in which we have seen that it leads to unsafe decisions and harm to ourselves.
In the adolescent stage, peers have a major role in a teenager life and they usually replace family as the center for support and consultation. As adolescence develops, trying to locate ones identity and risk taking behaviors tend to increase. In joining gangs, adolescents reject values and moral behavior and in turn adolescents must conform and accept the gang’s values, behavior, and style of dress. In regards to the pressure geared towards drugs and alcohol, teens gravitate to those who endorse and support one other’s habits.
One of the most recurring points is that teens concede to peer pressure because they want to fit in or to avoid being teased. Another is the belief that others are doing it. This encourages adolescents to ignore their own sense of judgment and to continue making ineffective decisions. Holding an intervention educates teens about peer pressure and shows that they are supported. Future research should study long term outcomes of peer pressure. This information would aid in educating adolescence on making effective decisions. Appendix A Discussion Questions
Adolescents will be asked the following questions during open discussions: 1. What is peer pressure? a. State in your own words 2. Why is it difficult to say “no” peers? 3. Imagine that in a conversation a boy says that “when you’re under the influence of alcohol, the alcohol begins to do the thinking for you. ” What did he mean? a. Do you agree? b. Why or why not? 4. How do you know whether or not it’s “all right” to go along with the crowd? a. How can you tell? 5. Do you know anybody who has been harmed by involvement in gangs, alcohol and drugs, or even sex? Appendix B Homework 1.
Making excuses is an easy way to get out of saying “no. ” What are positive statements can we say to ourselves that will help us say “no”? a. Create a list and hang it on your wall or refrigerator as a reminder. 2. Write about a time when you had to defend against negative peer pressure. a. How did it happen? b. How did you feel? c. What did you learn from it? 3. Write about the other kinds of peer pressure that happens every day (i. e, in school, neighborhood)? a. How do you feel about them? b. What could be done to reduce these pressures? c. What could you say or do to make effective decisions?