Peers are people who are part of the same social group, so the term "peer pressure" refers to the influence that peers can have on each other.
Peer pressure is the process by which members of the same social group influence other members to do things that they may be resistant to, or might not otherwise choose to do.
Usually, the term peer pressure is used when people are talking about behaviors that are not considered socially acceptable or desirable, such as experimentation with alcohol or drugs.
Though peer pressure is not usually used to describe socially desirable behaviors, such as exercising or studying, peer pressure can have positive effects in some cases.
Types of Peer Pressure
In reality, peer pressure can be either a positive or negative influence that one peer, or group of peers, has on another person. The following six terms are often used to describe the types of peer pressure a person may experience.
Spoken vs. Unspoken Peer Pressure
As the name suggests, spoken peer pressure is when someone verbally influences another person to do something. For instance, a teenager might influence their friend to smoke a cigarette by saying, "Come on, one cigarette won't hurt."
Unspoken peer pressure, on the other hand, is when no one verbally tries to influence you. However, there is still a standard set by the group to behave in a certain way.
Even if no one tells the teenager to smoke a cigarette in the example above, the teen may still feel pressured by their peers to partake in the activity because it seems like everyone is doing it.
Direct vs. Indirect Peer Pressure
Direct peer pressure is when a person uses verbal or nonverbal cues to persuade someone to do something. The example mentioned above of a teen handing another teen a cigarette is also an instance of direct peer pressure because the teen on the receiving end must decide on the spot how they're going to respond.
With indirect peer pressure, no one is singling you out, but the environment you're in may influence you to do something. If you're at a party where everyone is drinking, for instance, you might feel pressured to drink even if no one asks you to.
Positive vs. Negative Peer Pressure
Finally, peer pressure can be described as either positive or negative. Positive peer pressure is when a person is influenced by others to engage in a beneficial or productive behavior.
Negative peer pressure is the influence a person faces to do something they wouldn't normally do or don't want to do as a way of fitting in with a social group. People often face negative peer pressure to drink alcohol, do drugs, or have sex.
Examples of Peer Pressure
Peer pressure causes people to do things they would not otherwise do with the hope of fitting in or being noticed.
Things people may be peer pressured into doing include:
- Acting aggressively (common among men)
- Bullying others
- Doing drugs
- Dressing a certain way
- Drinking alcohol
- Engaging in vandalism or other criminal activities
- Having sex
- Physically fighting
- Only socializing with a certain group
Peer pressure or the desire to impress their peers can override a teen or tween's fear of taking risks, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Kids. Risky behavior with drugs and/or alcohol may result in the following:
- Alcohol or drug poisoning
- Driving under the influence (of alcohol or other drugs)
- Sexually transmitted diseases
People can also feel an internal pressure to participate in activities and behaviors they think their peers are doing, which can put them at risk for the following behavioral addictions:
- Food addiction
- Gambling addiction
- Internet addiction
- Sex addiction
- Shopping addiction
- Video game addiction
In the case of teens, parents are rarely concerned about the peer pressure their kids may face to engage in sports or exercise, as these are typically seen as healthy social behaviors. This is OK, as long as the exercise or sport does not become an unhealthy way of coping, excessive to the point of negatively affecting their health, or dangerous (as in dangerous sports).
What starts out as positive peer pressure may become negative pressure if it leads a person to over-identify with sports, for example, putting exercise and competition above all else.
If taken to an extreme, they may develop exercise addiction, causing them to neglect schoolwork and social activities, and ultimately, use exercise and competition in sports as their main outlet for coping with the stresses of life. This can also lead to numerous health consequences.
Examples of Positive Peer Influence
We tend to hear more about the potentially negative effects of peer pressure. But the reality is, peer pressure can be positive. For instance, two friends might put positive pressure on each other to go to the gym together and stay accountable for their fitness goals.
Teens who volunteer in their community can keep each other motivated to participate. This involvement can lead to exposure to role models and eventually lead to the teens becoming positive role models themselves.
You can also positively peer pressure others by the way you respond to situations. For instance, if your friend is body-shaming another person, you can say, "Actually, it can be really harmful to criticize people's bodies like that."
In turn, your friend might reconsider criticizing people based on their appearance. By simply adhering to your own values and sharing them with a friend, you can positively peer pressure them to think before making a negative comment.
Parental Influence vs. Peer Pressure
Although parents worry about the influence of peers, overall, parents also can have a strong influence on whether children succumb to negative peer pressure.
Rather than worrying about the effects of their children's friendships, parents would do well to focus on creating a positive, supportive home environment. That way, even if your child is peer pressured to do something they don't want to do, they'll feel comfortable coming to you to talk about it first.
Role modeling good emotional self-regulation may also help your child stick to their own values when it comes to peer pressure. Self-regulation involves the ability to control thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in order to manage current behavior and achieve long-term goals.
This will teach your child positive ways of solving problems and coping with uncomfortable feelings, rather than trying to escape by doing things to fit into a crowd. Peer pressure to take potentially harmful risks can be balanced by parents ensuring that they set appropriate boundaries, provide support, and help to avoid risks. A few examples:
- Pick up your child from events where alcohol or drugs may have been consumed.
- Provide balanced, truthful information on issues such as alcohol and drug use.
- Stay involved in your child's life. Believe it or not, you are one of their biggest influences and they listen when you talk.
- Urge the importance of thinking before doing. Teach teens to ask themselves questions like: Could this harm me or someone else? Will this put my health or safety at risk? Is it legal? What are the long-term consequences for my health, family, education, and future?
Peer Pressure Beyond Childhood
Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure because they are at a stage of development when they are separating more from their parents' influence, but have not yet established their own values or understanding about human relationships or the consequences of their behavior.
They are also typically striving for social acceptance and are more willing to engage in behaviors against their better judgment in order to be accepted.
However, adults are also vulnerable to peer pressure. Many adults are susceptible to drinking too much because their friends are doing it, or putting work before family because they're competing with other people in their office for a promotion.
The bottom line: Being aware of, and carefully choosing the influence of peers that will lead to healthy and happy experiences is a lifelong process.
How to Deal With Peer Pressure
Dealing with peer pressure can be difficult, but below are some ways to help address it.
Take Your Time
Instead of quickly agreeing to do something you'd rather not do, pause and take a few deep breaths. If someone is waiting for you to answer them, tell them you need to take a few days and think about it. It's easier to resist the pressure when you put some time and space between yourself and the situation.
Consider Your Reasons
When you're faced with a choice, ask yourself what your reasons are for doing something. If it's because all of your friends are doing it and you're afraid they won't talk to you if you don't join them, then you may want to reconsider.
You deserve to surround yourself with supportive people who respect your decisions—not people who pressure you into doing something that doesn't feel right.
Saying "no" can be hard, but it's necessary to set healthy boundaries in relationships. If someone persistently pressures you to do something, you can try telling them how it affects you.
For instance, you might say something like, "It upsets me when you offer me a cigarette when you know I don't smoke. I won't be able to keep hanging out with you if you don't respect my answer."
How to Set Healthy Boundaries
Offer an Alternative
It's possible that a friend who is peer pressuring you simply wants to spend more time with you or connect with you, but they don't know how else to ask.
If they pressure you to do shots with them at the bar when you aren't drinking, for example, you might suggest that you both hit the dance floor instead. Or maybe, you make a plan to go on a hike or to the movies the next time you hang out. That way, you're fulfilling both of your needs in a mutually beneficial way.
: a feeling that one must do the same things as other people of one's age and social group in order to be liked or respected by them. She started drinking in high school because of peer pressure.What is peer pressure and examples? ›
When the Pressure's On. Sometimes, though, the stresses in your life can actually come from your peers. They may pressure you into doing something you're uncomfortable with, such as shoplifting, doing drugs or drinking, taking dangerous risks when driving a car, or having sex before you feel ready.What are 2 types of peer pressure? ›
Direct And Indirect Peer Pressure
Direct Peer Pressure — being put in a position to make on-the-spot decisions. Direct peer pressure is normally behavior-centric, like having alcohol forced on you when you're known not to drink. Indirect Peer Pressure —indirect peer pressure is subtle but can still be toxic.
Why Do Some Kids Give in to Peer Pressure? Some kids give in to peer pressure because they want to be liked or they think it helps them fit in. Some worry that other kids might tease them if they don't go along with the group. Others go along because they are curious.What kind of things make people pressured? ›
- Feel under lots of pressure.
- Face big changes in your life.
- Are worried about something.
- Don't have much or any control over the outcome of a situation.
- Have responsibilities that you find overwhelming.
- Don't have enough work, activities or change in your life.
- Experience discrimination, hate or abuse.
- Pay attention to how you feel. ...
- Plan ahead. ...
- Talk to the person who is pressuring, let him or her know how it makes you feel and tell the person stop.
- Have a secret code to communicate with parents. ...
- Give an excuse. ...
- Have friends with similar values and beliefs.
Peer pressure is commonly thought of in a negative light, but in reality, it's not always a bad thing. Sometimes peer pressure is used to positively influence people, such as when teens work toward common goals such as doing well in school or helping out in their community.How is peer pressure good? ›
Positive peer pressure is when someone's peers influence them to do something positive or growth building. For example, peers who are committed to doing well in school or at sport can influence others to be more goal orientated. Similarly, peers who are kind, loyal or supportive influence others to be the same.What are 3 negative effects of peer pressure? ›
Negative peer pressure is often related to influencing bullying behaviours, drinking alcohol, drug use and negative body image, all of which are harmful to a child or young person's wellbeing. The effects of such behaviours can decrease self-confidence, self-worth and distancing from family members and friends.Where is peer pressure most common? ›
Peer pressure happens quite frequently– on social media, amongst our friend groups, at school, and sometimes even in our home. Peer pressure is often thought of as negative, due to influencing decision-making, but it can also be a positive thing.
Even though peer pressure has positive effects on teens, by helping them do well in school, eating healthy, exercising, joining after-school programs, it has more negative effects on teens as it influences teens to start taking drugs, smoking, shoplifting, cutting class, having sex, drinking alcohol, physical violence, ...What happens when you are peer pressured? ›
Negative peer pressure can also affect mental health. It can decrease self-confidence and lead to poor academic performance, distancing from family members and friends, or an increase in depression and anxiety. Left untreated, this could eventually lead teens to engage in self-harm or have suicidal thoughts.Is peer pressure a social problem? ›
Negative peer pressure can lead teens in bad directions. It could lead them to try alcohol or drugs, skip school or engage in other poor behaviors that could put their health at risk. “A teenager's brain is only about 80 percent developed,” says Gurinder Dabhia, MD, a pediatrician at Scripps Clinic Rancho Bernardo.What are 2 warning signs of peer pressure? ›
- Drop in school performance, skipping classes or cheating.
- Spends more time with a new group of friends.
- Changes in clothing style or color, jewelry and makeup.
- Becomes more secretive, withdrawn or sullen.
Prior research describes the development of susceptibility to peer pressure in adolescence as following an inverted U-shaped curve, increasing during early adolescence, peaking around age 14, and declining thereafter.What are 5 warning signs of peer pressure? ›
- Behavior changes. Look out for changes in your child's behavior, especially when they are around certain groups of friends. ...
- Feeling like they don't fit in. ...
- Trying new things. ...
- Focus on image. ...
- Making comparisons. ...
- Doing things you don't want to do. ...
- Performance at school.
Research further states that the presence of peer pressure is a predictor for increase stress levels, anxiety and sleep issues (Anna Freud – National Centre for Children and Families).Why do girls face more peer pressure than boys? ›
Did you know, girls experience more peer pressure than boys? Many studies show this. 32% girls felt pressure about their body image vs 19% of boys feeling pressured. Also, 24% of girls vs 17% of boys felt peer pressure to do better in tests and school.Why does pressure cause unhappiness? ›
It leads us to constantly evaluate how we feel
The pressure to be happy leads us to evaluate and overthink whether or not we are happy. This then leads us to be constantly aware of or thinking about ways our situation could improve, comparing ourselves to others and focusing on things that are not right in our lives.
ˈpir. : one that is of equal standing with another : equal. The band mates welcomed the new member as a peer. especially : one belonging to the same societal group especially based on age, grade, or status.
Positive peer pressure is when someone's peers influence them to do something positive or growth building. For example, peers who are committed to doing well in school or at sport can influence others to be more goal orientated. Similarly, peers who are kind, loyal or supportive influence others to be the same.What is peer pressure and why is it bad? ›
Negative peer pressure is often related to influencing bullying behaviours, drinking alcohol, drug use and negative body image, all of which are harmful to a child or young person's wellbeing. The effects of such behaviours can decrease self-confidence, self-worth and distancing from family members and friends.What are 5 causes of peer pressure? ›
- Weak personality.
- Fear of rejection.
- Social acceptance.
- Avoidance of bullying.
- Improvements in coolness.
- Humans want to be liked.
- Hormonal reasons.
- Bad parenting.
Often, peers are thought of as friends, but peers can be anyone of a similar status, such as people who are the same age, who have the same abilities, or who share a social status.What age is a peer? ›
These age categories are, I believe, widely experienced during adulthood: others persons are roughly the same age as myself (age peers or coevals) if they are not more than 6 to 7 years older or younger. 'My generation' thus covers a span of some 12-15 years.What is the difference between a friend and a peer? ›
Who are the people with whom you spend time? They probably fall into two categories-peers (classmates you may or may not know very well) and friends (those you choose to spend time with).How does peer pressure affect behavior? ›
Negative peer pressure can lead teens in bad directions. It could lead them to try alcohol or drugs, skip school or engage in other poor behaviors that could put their health at risk. “A teenager's brain is only about 80 percent developed,” says Gurinder Dabhia, MD, a pediatrician at Scripps Clinic Rancho Bernardo.What are 3 positive effects of peer pressure? ›
Positive effects of peer pressure include: a sense of belonging and support. increased self-confidence. introduction to positive hobbies and interests.