Dealing with Peer Pressure (Essay Example)
One can define peer pressure as an influence that peers exert on an individual's values, attitudes, and behaviors. A person feels forced to conform to the expectations of a group of peers to fit in or to be accepted by this group. Children and adolescents are especially susceptible to peer pressure since they lack skill and competency in independent decision making and have a pronounced need to belong to a social group.
As the term peer pressure is usually used in a negative context, to denote a negative influence social groups can have on their members or those seeking membership. However, peer pressure is not always negative. It can also have a positive influence if it helps a person engage in a desirable activity previously avoided for reasons of fear or insecurity. When we see someone else successfully doing something, it becomes less frightening, and we are more inclined to try it ourselves. Of course, the negative side of peer pressure is overwhelming as it entails indulging in such activities as drinking, smoking, taking drugs, stealing, skipping school, or behaving promiscuously.
Peer pressure influences persons of all ages, professions, socioeconomic backgrounds and of both genders. The influence of peers on a person’s behavior is perhaps most noticeable in adolescence and already starts to decline at the beginning of adulthood. The reason why young people are likely to give in to peer pressure and find it very difficult to refuse to do things which are in contrast with their moral values is a strong desire to resemble those around them. It ranges from wearing the same brand of clothing and using the same manner of speech to public intoxication, disrespecting authorities, dropping out of school, etc. The popular children at school are the first to fall victim to negative peer influences because they are highly dependent on the norms of the peer group. Risk-taking behaviors are widely approved by peer groups and allow those who engage in them to be respected and to achieve a higher social status within the group. Peer groups provide an individual with three things that facilitate indulging in problematic behavior: the opportunity to do such things, role models in the shape of distinguished group members and social norms which are group-specific and deviate from generally accepted norms. Adolescence is also the age when parental influence starts to fade, and there is a growing urge to defy authority in all shapes and sizes. Adolescents often have to face difficult decisions to make and seemingly no one to turn to but their peer group. The group can be a positive one, supporting its members to reach favorable decisions and behave appropriately in their academic and social environment. This is, however, a much less frequent occurrence than the opposite one in which a group pushes its members towards negative choices.
Gender differences have been notable in the context of giving in to peer pressure. Namely, girls seem to be more resistant to influences exerted by social groups, than boys, which is probably the reason why risk behavior and substance abuse are more prevalent in the population of male adolescents. Girls are more prone to demonstrate their belonging to a peer group by safer means, like the choice of clothing, use of colloquialisms in their speech, etc. Resisting peer influences is usually met with ridicule, and those who manage to find the strength not to surrender to group pressure are rejected and marginalized.
Peer pressure can find manifestation in everyday face-to-face interactions, but in the modern era, social media have taken it to a whole new level. Young people are compelled to look like their idols and to imitate them in all respects. Popularity depends on the number of followers a person has on social networks, irrespective of the fact that they have never even met them. Someone`s social status gets measured by the number of "likes" they accumulate when posting a story or a photograph. Thrashing someone on social media is a new form of bullying, and since people do it so publicly, it can have an even more significant impact than doing it in person. The pressure exerted through social media is a new form of peer pressure, one that is especially difficult to resist.
If you feel coerced to do things that make you uncomfortable for being in discord with your moral values, you should not give in to pressure. Be confident, listen to your inner voice and trust yourself to do the right thing. By doing this, you will set an example for those perhaps less courageous than you and make it easier for them to resist pressure and enable them to find strength and confidence to stand up for themselves and speak up against peer pressure. Also, do not forget that you are not alone and that there is always someone to turn to for support, like a parent or a teacher or any other person you respect and trust.