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Being pressured to...

According to Dr. Casey from the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, teens are very quick and accurate in making judgments and decisions on their own and in situations where they have time to think. However, when they have to make decisions in the heat of the moment or in social situations, their decisions are often influenced by external factors like peers. What the researchers discovered was that the number of risks teens took in the driving game more than doubled when their friends were watching as compared to when the teens played the game alone.

Peer pressure & peer influence: teens | Raising Children Network

This outcome indicates that teens may find it more difficult to control impulsive or risky behaviors when their friends are around, or in situations that are emotionally charged. While it can be hard for teens to resist peer influence sometimes, especially in the heat of the moment, it can also have a positive effect. Just as people can influence others to make negative choices, they can also influence them to make positive ones.

A teen might join a volunteer project because all of his or her friends are doing it, or get good grades because the social group he or she belongs to thinks getting good grades is important. In fact, friends often encourage each other to study, try out for sports, or follow new artistic interests. In this way, peer influence can lead teens to engage in new activities that can help build strong pathways in the brain. This means that teens have the potential, through their choices and the behaviors they engage in, to shape their own brain development.

So 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 and drug use.

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The term "peer pressure" is not usually used to describe socially desirable behaviors, such as taking more exercise, or academic success. Usually, the way that the term peer pressure is used is describing a negative influence that one peer, or group of peers, has on another person.

The term is often used when describing how a previous well-behaved young person developed problematic behaviors, especially related to alcohol or drug use. However, in reality, the influence that people have on one another can be either positive or negative, so in another way, peer pressure could be applied to either socially desirable or socially undesirable behaviors.

For example, peer pressure could influence a young person to become involved in sports. This involvement could be positive, leading to exposure to healthy lifestyles and role models, and eventually leading the young person to become a positive role model herself. On the other hand, that same peer pressure could lead the same young person to over-identify with sports, putting exercise and competition above all else.


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If taken to an extreme, she may develop exercise addiction , resulting in health problems, and causing her to neglect her schoolwork, other social activities, and ultimately, using exercise and competition in sports as her main outlet for coping with the stresses of life. Parents often worry about peer pressure, particularly in relation to potentially addictive activities, such as alcohol and drug use and sexual behavior, and to a lesser extent, food and eating patterns, video game playing, gambling , shopping and spending, and illegal activities.

Parents are rarely concerned about peer pressure to engage in sports and exercise , as these are typically seen as healthy social behaviors.


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  • This is appropriate, 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. Addiction is a complex process, which is affected by many different factors, so peer pressure alone is unlikely to cause an addiction.

    Dealing With Peer Pressure

    Although parents worry about the influence of peers, overall, parents have a greater influence on whether children go on to develop addictive behaviors than peers do. However, peers can also have a negative influence. They can encourage each other to skip classes, steal, cheat, use drugs or alcohol, share inappropriate material online, or become involve in other risky behaviors. The majority of teens with substance abuse problems began using drugs or alcohol as a result of peer pressure.

    This pressure can happen in person or on social media.

    Meet the Expert

    Kids often give in to peer pressure because they want to fit in. They want to be liked and they worry that they may be left out or made fun of if they don't go along with the group. Parents can also help by recognizing when their child is having a problem with peer pressure. The following are tips for parents to help your child deal with peer pressure:.

    James Bay - Peer Pressure (Audio) ft. Julia Michaels