Dealing with Peer Pressure

Whether or not you’re familiar with addiction, you are most likely familiar with peer pressure. Peer pressure and addiction are often, but not always, associated with each other.

Peer pressure can take on forms that have a little or nothing to do with drugs or alcohol. People can be pressured into partaking in certain activities or behaving in a certain manner. No matter what the case, peer pressure is a difficult situation that encourages people to do things that they would not normally do.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the different types of peer pressure and how you can learn to manage them. This information will be useful if you are subject to peer pressure yourself, or if you were taking care of youth who may be exposed to it.

What Is Peer Pressure?

Peer pressure is any sort of pressuring behaviour that one experiences as a result of their peer group. In short, it is another term that describes the influence that one’s friends, coworkers, and schoolmates can have on their behavior.

There is a negative connotation surrounding the word peer pressure, and for good reason. While it is possible to experience positive peer pressure, the ramifications of negative peer pressure are often more obvious. For this reason, the term generally describes a type of peer pressure that encourages people to make unhealthy decisions.

Peer pressure is a term often associated with adolescence. However, peer pressure can occur at all stages of life. The reason that it is most commonly associated with adolescence is because people of this age are more susceptible to the influence of others. As we grow older and learn more about our boundaries, preferences, and limits, we become less susceptible to peer pressure.

However, no matter how old we are, we are all going to be aware of the influence of those around us. As humans, we are hardwired to desire to become a part of a large group. If our desires or beliefs go against the grain, we can become uncomfortable and feel isolated.

This is one of the reasons that peer pressure is such a common occurrence. Whether it is indirect or direct peer pressure, it plays upon the individual’s desire to be accepted by a larger group. This desire often trumps one’s rational mind, and they may be willing to make decisions that serve the group rather than their own interest. 

Younger people may be more likely to sacrifice their own desires in order to appease other people at school. During our years of school, we are developing a sense of identity. Rather than risk being rejected by those that we think are worthy of our respect, we may sacrifice our own beliefs or ideas and act upon theirs. 

For example, a young boy who had no healthy male influence at home may look up to someone in school. Perhaps they admire the carefree and laid-back attitude of someone who smokes marijuana. They might then associate these traits with marijuana. If they do not have a strong stance against marijuana and know nothing of its negative effects, they may be more likely to experiment with it. This is a form of indirect peer pressure.

Positive Peer Pressure

While peer pressure generally has a negative connotation, positive peer pressure is not uncommon at all. However, since positive peer pressure encourages people to make healthy decisions that foster well-being, it may not be as immediately obvious as peer pressure that encourages someone to act dangerously.

For example, someone who follows their peers’ example to eat healthy food may not stick out as much as someone who is pressured into drinking until they black out.

Nonetheless, this type of positive peer pressure is present all the time. It plays upon our same basic instinct to be accepted by those around us. The main difference between negative and positive peer pressure is that positive peer pressure encourages healthy behavior. 

For example, if a young teenager is surrounded by people who play sports, they may decide to take up sports themselves even if they wouldn’t have done so on their own. This is an example of positive peer pressure that encourages people to experiment with activities that may prove fruitful for them.

  • Positive peer pressure may involve your friends encouraging you to study harder or put more hours in.
  • Positive peer pressure may encourage a young teenager to get a job in order to develop a financial independence.
  • A young teenager may be influenced to start saving money by working so that they can purchase a car if they see their friends doing so.

Negative peer pressure

Negative peer pressure operates in the same way. However, behaviours associated with negative peer pressure usually encourage destructive, dangerous, or unhealthy behavior.

Here are some examples of negative peer pressure.

  • Someone may be encouraged to drink alcohol or take drugs if their friends are doing so.
  • Adolescents may be encouraged by their peer groups to skip school.
  • Someone may be pure pressured into having sex even if they are uninterested or not ready to do so.

Direct & Indirect Peer Pressure

There are many different types of peer pressure. In broad terms, they can be broken up into indirect and direct peer pressure.

Direct peer pressure

Direct peer pressure occurs when somebody is directly influencing someone else to make a decision. This can be done by talking to them or showcasing certain behaviours in an effort to get them to join.

Direct peer pressure can be difficult to manage because it is upfront and quite confrontational. If you are presented with a group of your friends who are telling you to join them on a certain activity, it can be easy to feel outcast if you choose to decline.

Encouraging your child to develop prepared responses in the case of direct peer pressure can help. For example, if they are pressured to skip school, they might respond by saying that they’ve already missed enough classes and that they can’t risk losing any more.

Indirect peer pressure

indirect peer pressure can be just as persuasive as direct pressure, if not more so. One of the problems of indirect peer pressure is that people are not always aware that they are subjected to it.

Indirect peer pressure occurs when somebody feels influenced to act in a certain way based on the decisions and actions of others. This is one of the reasons that fads are such a regular occurrence.  When large groups of people become interested in the same thing, it’s natural to want to feel included in this group.

If your teenager is making a point of bringing a certain brand of clothing or backpacks, this is because branding also contributes to indirect peer pressure. Buying a brand is a statement of where you stand, and many youth use branding to help fit in with certain peer groups.

On the same note, indirect peer pressure can contribute to teenagers using drugs or alcohol. If they see their friends going out on the weekend and getting drunk, they may become convinced that they are missing out on fun. This can easily encourage someone to start drinking.

One of the best ways to fight indirect peer pressure is to remain aware of the consequences of certain actions. You may want to educate your teenager about the effects of drugs and alcohol, the risks of unprotected sex, or the dangers of other risky activities.

Types of Peer Pressure

Peer pressure can be further broken down into several types.

Spoken Peer Pressure

Spoken peer pressure is among the most direct forms of peer pressure. This occurs when someone is directly encouraging someone to engage in particular activities.

Suggestion, persuasion, demanding, and encouraging are all different forms of spoken peer pressure. Spoken peer pressure is often more effective if a group of individuals are all pushing the same idea.

On the other hand, spoken peer pressure can be incredibly effective if an individual is having a one on one conversation with someone that they respect and admire.

Passive Peer Pressure

Passive peer pressure is a form of peer pressure that is indirect. In fact, it is largely the individual’s response to their peers, rather than their peers actually pressuring them. 

For example, individuals or groups may act in a way that your teenager admires. Simply by observing their behavior, your teen may feel pressured to act in the same way. This will cause them to make decisions based on their desire to fit in rather than their own true desires.

Cultural Peer Pressure

Cultural peer pressure is another form of indirect peer pressure. This particular form of peer pressure can be so subtle and pervasive that one might not be aware of it. In fact, most of us are still victims of cultural peer pressure.

One of the difficulties of identifying cultural pressure is acknowledging that most members of your culture will be following the same rules. There are many things that we do for no other reason than the fact that our society engages in the same behaviors.

For example, our beliefs on marriage, sexuality, and acceptable behaviours are so deeply ingrained in our psyche that most would be willing to fight against people who do not subscribe to these beliefs. However, in other cultures, the exact opposite beliefs may be commonplace. People of these cultures would think that our beliefs are strange or unwarranted.

On a smaller scale, cultural peer pressure can occur as well. For example, if a country boy raised to a wealthy family was sent to a private school filled with city kids, they would likely feel some pressure to change their behavior. They may start acting or speaking differently, or change the sort of clothes that they wear.

Rather than remaining true to their own individuality, they would sacrifice their in aid desires for those of their immediate culture.

Peer Pressure and Addiction

One of the main reasons that peer pressure has garnered so much attention in recent years is because of its influence on addiction. A large number of teenagers first try drugs or alcohol because they are encouraged to do so, either directly or indirectly, thanks to the behaviour of their peers.

One of the main factors in this is the way that substance use influences a person’s behavior. Drugs and alcohol tend to instill a false sense of confidence in the people using them. People who are struggling with insecurity, people who are still developing their identity, may naturally be drawn to this confidence. In an attempt to model this imitation self-confidence, they may start to use drugs or alcohol themselves.

Peer pressure relating to the use of drugs or alcohol can lead to a number of problems.

  • Increased risk of destructive or dangerous behavior
  • Accidents and car crashes
  • Overdosing or alcohol poisoning
  • Increased risk of STDs
  • Risk of addiction

Teenagers are also susceptible to the risk of behavioural addictions. Not all addictions involve the use of drugs or alcohol. The compulsive use of gambling, sex, shopping, or playing video games can all be categorized as addictions.

Well these addictions may not present the same obvious dangers as a drug addiction, they can still adversely affect teenagers’ lives. Addictions of any type influence the brain’s dopamine centre and can lead to lasting changes in cognitive and emotional health.

Are You Pressuring Your Child?

While most parents are concerned about the influence of their teenager’s friends and peer groups, it’s just as important to be aware of your own influence on your children. You are going to be your child’s primary model for independence, so it’s important to be aware of what sort of example you’re setting.

One of the best things to do is ensure that all pressure presented by your parenting is positive. You want to encourage healthy behaviours and discourage negative ones.

  • You should create a home environment that is free from drugs and alcohol. If you must occasionally indulge, make sure to do it on your own time where your child will not be able to model you.

  • Make sure that you provide enough opportunity for emotional support. Always be there to listen to your child when they have something to speak about.

  • Encourage whatever your child wants to do, even if it goes against the grain. Especially if it goes against the grain. If someone remains true to their own desires, chances are, they won’t be going with the flow of their peers. This is a chance for them to express their true gifts and desires.

    For example, if your teenage boy wants to take up belly dancing, then you should encourage him to do so.  If they don’t receive positive encouragement from you, then they will begin to develop a distorted self image. This makes them more susceptible to peer pressure. Rather than trusting and relying on their own intuition and wants, they will begin to base their decisions on what other people think and do.

Dealing With Peer Pressure in School

If your child is attending school, then it can help to have some idea of how to manage peer pressure. Here are some tips on how to manage your pressure with your teenager.

Talk Openly With Them

One of the best things that you can do for your teenager is to talk openly with them. This will not only help them avoid peer pressure, but it will also help them develop a strong sense of self identity and self-confidence.

What this means is talking to your teenager like they are an adult. Relating with them like they were one of your friends. This will make them feel like they are mature enough to discuss and understand their own emotions.

By letting them know about your feelings, worries, and desires, they will begin to accept their own. Thus, when faced with peer pressure, they will be less likely to fold.

Prepare a Plan

One of the biggest challenges of peer pressure is being caught off guard and not having an exit plan. For this reason, it’s important to teach your kids how to prepare for peer pressure.

One opportunity is to have a back up plan in which your child can contact you without alerting their peers.  You could discuss a secret code. Perhaps if they send you a text message with this code included, you can call them and tell them that something happened at home. Then, you can go pick them up from wherever they are.

It can also help to develop a plan to respond to specific cases of peer pressure. For example, if someone offers a joint to your child, they can explain that they have a family meeting to attend and they cannot be intoxicated.

Utilize Positive Peer Pressure

One of the best ways to prevent your child from falling victim to peer pressure is to be a model example of positive peer pressure.

Consider as many instances of peer pressure that you can. Then, become a living model of the positive version of these things. 

Show your child that it is possible to be social and happy without using drugs. Let them know that it doesn’t matter what they want to wear. Encourage positive behaviours like exercising, playing sports, and being artistic.

Educate Them

Remember, your child is going to be facing these peer pressures on their own. If you don’t educate them about the risks of certain behaviors, then chances are, their information will be coming directly from the peers who are influencing them.

It’s important to let your child know as much as you can about the effects of drugs and alcohol, the risks of unprotected sex, and the importance of remaining true to themselves. 

You can also provide some examples from your own life, which can serve to enlighten them a bit more than a strictly objective education system can.


Peer pressure is a common problem that affects everyone, regardless of age. However, younger people are more susceptible to the influence of peer pressure.

Teenagers may be pressured to engage in unhealthy behaviors. Understanding how to prevent this is important for raising healthy adults.The tips and tricks provided in this article should help provide a framework for teaching your children not to fall victim to peer pressure.

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