Hony Special Editor JSSW, April 2012
Peer pressure refers to the influence exerted bypeer groupin encouraging aperson to change his or herattitudes,values, orbehaviourin order to
conformto groupnorms, usually to the worse and not for better. It is
particularly common among youth because most youth spend longer time infixed groups (schoolsand subgroups within them) regardless of their opinionof those groups. Much research has shown that peer pressure has a muchgreater impact on adolescent behaviour than any other factor. Teenagerspends many more of his or her waking hours with peers than with familymembers. The interaction is direct, and much more powerful than theinfluence of teachers and other authority figures. Peer pressure tends tohave more of an effect on children with low self-esteem. If a child feelscompelled to fit in, the teen may do things that go against his or her beliefssimply to be part of the group. This influence can be negative or positive, with a successful result being achange in a person's behaviour.Nearly all children experience some form of peer pressure, whether atschool, at church or at home among siblings. As a kind of social pressure, itdominates preteen life. Many teens become absorbed into different cliquesand groups, spending less time with their families. Much of the personality of a teen can be shaped by a peer group. Negative peer pressure can be adangerous tool against children, especially younger or insecure children. They may be persuaded to take actions they might otherwise not haveconsidered, such as smokingcigarettes, drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
Peer pressure is not always negative
, however. A student whose friendsexcel in academics may be compelled to study hard and get good grades.Influence can also be exerted to get a friend off drugs or to help an adulttake up a good habit or drop a bad one. Study groups, class projects andathletic groups are examples of positive peer groups.
Combating Negative Pressure
Schools and other organizations try to teach kids about the dangers of negative peer pressure and to embrace the beneficial influence of a positivepeer group. Kids are taught to stand up and be themselves. They are advisedto politely decline to do things that they believe are wrong. They are taughtto stop and think about what they do and not act in a particular way justbecause everybody else is.