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September 18, 2017

Peer Pressure: A Hallmark of Adolescent Experience

Guiding oneself through Adolescence is challenging - particularly because we begin gaining more psychological dependence from our parents.  Resultantly, this diminishes our reliance on our families’ sphere of influence. We are required to decide for ourselves the rights from the wrongs, all whilst challenging and evolving our existing identity (Erikson, 1968). Social acceptance & belongingness aren’t new concepts, but the priority of being reassured highly intensifies throughout our formative years. Thus, we start to feel the weight of ‘peer pressure’ significantly more than we may previously recall. Peer pressure (Sometimes referred to as Social Pressure or Peer Influence) has been defined as pressure to conform to certain peer prescribed guidelines (Clasen & Brown, 1985) & is an integral component of adolescent socialization (Hartup, 1983). Researchers argue that peer group affiliations & the dynamics of peer pressure are essential for healthy identity development (Erikson, 1968). ‘Negative’ peer pressure may reduce well being - contrarily, it can also appear as ‘positive’ encouragement; a friend pressures you to be honest about a situation or to work hard for an upcoming exam. Here, we try to understand the dynamics of negative peer pressure specifically & present practical tips for keeping your ‘cool’ in hot situations...

‘Passive’ or ‘Active’ Peer Pressure - To prevent the effects felt from peer pressure it’s important to identify differences between ‘passive’ & ‘active’ pressures (Harakeh & Volleburgh, 2012). The fomer refers to immitation - or social learning (Bandura, 1977) – and presents itself as an internal desire to fit in. For example, seeing all your friends smoking & deciding to join in as to not feel excluded. The latter describes explicit pressures which manifest as external persuasions from others. With active peer pressure you would feel forced, judged or criticized for refusing to smoke. Although it can sometimes be easier to simply ‘go with the flow’ rather than resist, it might not always be the right choice. Things that may appear fine in the short-term can have serious long-term consequences, so do listen to your intuition.

Passive Peer Pressure Tips

●      Internal Source – This type of pressure may only exist in our mind! The expectations that we set upon ourselves manifest from our needs, values and desires. You may think your peers are doing something, but research shows that teenagers (and parents) perceptions of what others are doing is actually innacurate (Perkins and Craig 2003; Kilmer et al. 2006, Perkins and Craig 2012; Wambeam et al. 2013). Topics that show there to be dramatic difference between what’s perceived and what’s reality include bullying and victimization (Perkins et al. 2011), sexual behavior (Martens et al. 2006), body image (Grossbard et al. 2011), food & drink consumption (Lally et al. 2011) and substance use (including alcohol and tobacco) (Martens et al., 2006).

●      Build Self-Esteem – Research consistently shows that low self-esteem correlates with giving into peer pressure (Zimmerman et al., 1997; Schreiner, 2016). Confidence & strong character building are self-constructed. Self-esteem is an inner attitude that only you entirely have control of. Look for ways to develop your self esteem and you’ll find it easier to just say ‘no’.

●      Develop Your ‘Moral Compass’ – Defined as ‘an internalized set of values & objectives that guide...[giving] regard to ethical behavior & decision making’ (Dictionary.com, 2017). Improve your decision making under pressure by evolving your guided principles. We recommend http://www.mhmrcv.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=41172&cn=1310 for a comprehensive explanation to get you formulating a strong sense of morality.

Active Peer Pressure Tips

●      Be Firm But Friendly – It’s understandable that you want to avoid humiliation. Think of structuring your objections in short, to the point (yet inclusive) phrases like ‘Chill bro – why the pressure’, ‘not interested dude’ or ‘no fam, don’t make me repeat myself.’

●      Code Word -  Here’s one that involves guardians. Create a code word (Familydoctor.org, 2017) – for example ‘Bandung’ – which really means ‘come collect me’. Situation: you’re surrounded by peers who want you to call your mother and tell her you’ll be home later, but nobody is giving you any privacy. ‘Mom, there’s a party at Jack’s house that everyone is going to. If I go I’ll still be able to catch you before you leave for BANDUNG tomorrow, right?’ Simple.

●      The Buddy System – This has to be reciprocal to work. Find a friend who positively influences you and who shares the same values as you do. Simply stand up for one another, or create alternative plans, allowing for an easy escape (Shaw, 2014).

●      Practice Saying ‘No’ -   It sounds like a strange exercise to, but practice makes perfect. The more confident you are in your deliverance the less likely your peer pressuring pest will continue to bother you! Assertive communication is critical, as is maintaining eye contact, speaking in a steady and calm tone, maintaining a strong posture and referring to others by first name (Whitson, 2011). Practice with someone you trust and use constructive feedback to further enhance your delivery.

Remember that by allowing others to make decisions for you your sacrificing your uniqueness, self-esteem, happiness, safety, physical and mental health (Drugrehab.com, 2017). It’s noteworthy to mention that peer pressure exists across all ages – so anticipate it for life! How we receive and perceive it can alter as we age, so it’s wise to start practicing sooner as practice makes perfect. Empower yourself with this knowledge, work on asserting yourself and feel in control of your life!

 

Niamh Mulenga

Development Intern

 

 

References:

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory Englewood Cliffs.

Clasen, D. R., & Brown, B. B. (1985). The multidimensionality of peer pressure in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 14(6), 451-468.

Dictionary.com (2017),  Moral Compass. Dictionary.com. Available from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/moral-compass [Accessed 01.07.2017].

Drug Rehab (2017), Alcohol and Peer Pressure. DrugRehab.com. Available from https://www.drugrehab.com/addiction/alcohol/peer-pressure/  [Accessed 01.07.2017].

Erikson, E. (1968). Youth: Identity and crisis. New York, NY: WW.

Family Doctor (2017), Helping Your Child Deal With Peer Pressure. Familydoctor.org.  Available from https://familydoctor.org/helping-your-child-deal-with-peer-pressure/ [Accessed 01.07.2017].

 

Grossbard, J. R., Neighbors, C., & Larimer, M. E. (2011). Perceived norms for thinness and muscularity among college students: What do men and women really want? Eating Behaviors, 12, 192–199.

Harakeh, Z., & Vollebergh, W. A. (2012). The impact of active and passive peer influence on young adult smoking: An experimental study. Drug and alcohol dependence, 121(3), 220-223.

 

Hartup, W. W. (1983). Peer relations. Handbook of child psychology: formerly Carmichael's Manual of child psychology/Paul H. Mussen, editor.

Kilmer, J. R., Walker, D. D., Lee, C. M., Palmer, R. S., Mallett, K. A., Fabiano, P., et al. (2006). Misperceptions of college student marijuana use: Implications for prevention. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 67, 277–281.

Lally, P., Bartle, N., & Wardle, J. (2011). Social norms and diet in adolescents. Appetite, 57, 623–627.

Martens, M. P., Page, J. C., Mowry, E. S., Damann, K. M., Taylor, K. K., & Cimini, M. D. (2006). Differences between actual and perceived student norms: An examination of alcohol use, drug use, and sexual behavior. Journal of American College Health, 54, 295–300.

Perkins, H. W., & Craig, D. W. (2003). The imaginary lives of peers: Patterns of substance use and misperceptions of norms among secondary school students. In H. W. Perkins (Ed.), The social norms approach to preventing school and college age substance abuse: A handbook for educators, counselors, and clinicians (pp. 209–223).

Perkins, H. W., Craig, D. W., & Perkins, J. M. (2011). Using social norms to reduce bullying: A research intervention among adolescents in five middle schools. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 14, 703–722.

Perkins, H. W., & Craig, D. W. (2012). Student-athletes’ misperceptions of male and female peer drinking norms: A multi-site investigation of the “reign of error”. Journal of College Student Development, 53, 367–382.

Schreiner, M., (2016),  Peer Pressure And Low Self-Esteem. EvolutionCounseling.com. Available from https://evolutioncounseling.com/peer-pressure-and-low-self-esteem/ [Accessed 18.06.2017].

Shaw, C. (2014). Peer support in secure services. Together for Mental Wellbeing, London.

 

Wambeam, R.A., Canen, E.L., Linkenbach, J., & Otto, J. (2013). Youth misperceptions of peer substance use norms: A hidden risk factor in state and community prevention.

Zimmerman, M. A., Copeland, L. A., Shope, J. T., & Dielman, T. E. (1997). A longitudinal study of self-esteem: Implications for adolescent development. Journal of youth and Adolescence, 26(2), 117-141.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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