Teenagers and peer pressure

Friends play an important role in young people’s lives, particularly during adolescence.

peer pressure - paper chain‘Peer pressure’ refers to the influence friends can have on how an individual thinks and acts.

As a parent you can support your child to recognise peer pressure, when it helps and hinders them, and how they can develop their own individuality, is an important role for parents.

How peer pressure works

Sometimes a young person’s peers can positively influence them to behave in a certain way. Other times they may be just following along.

In both of these cases it is really about seeking approval, but it is also possible for peer pressure to be a result of bullying. This is when your child fears being teased or physically hurt for not conforming.

The effects of peer pressure

Peer pressure can influence any part of a young person’s life, from the music they listen to, the clothes they wear, to their choice of school subjects.

You may associate peer pressure with negative outcomes such as your child trying alcohol, smoking or drugs. However, peer pressure can also allow certain groups to have positive influences on your child.

There’s no way of knowing exactly how your son or daughter will be affected.

Positive effects of peer pressure include:

  • a sense of belonging and support
  • increased self-confidence
  • introduction to positive hobbies and interests
  • reinforcement of positive habits and attitudes.

Negative effects of peer pressure include:

  • distance between family and existing friends
  • pressure to use alcohol, cigarettes or drugs
  • pressure to get involved with risky behaviour
  • distraction from schoolwork
  • drastic changes in behaviour and attitudes.

Self-esteem and mental health issues

Be aware that peer influence and pressure is a normal part of adolescence. As your son or daughter start moving away from the parent-child relationship and seeking their own independence and identity, their peers will become more important to them.

Making sure to support your son or daughter’s self-esteem can help them make decisions that won’t cause harm to themselves or others.

Teenagers and risk-taking

Taking risks and pushing boundaries is common amongst teenagers and is a big part of growing up.

risk sign It’s a concern for parents, especially when activities or behaviours could result in harm to themselves or others.

There are many reasons teenagers act this way, but as a parent you can assist by helping your son or daughter to develop positive ways and behaviours to take risks.

Why do teenagers take risks?

During adolescence teenagers can be focused on the reward they feel when they are admired by their friends, and the positive reinforcement they get by being included in a group of peers.

Friends and peers become incredibly important during the teenage years. This is why young people can become very distressed if they don’t have friends or feel socially rejected.

This increased focus on what their friends think of them occurs during a time when young people are learning self-regulation. These factors provide opportunities for risky behaviour to occur.

Making decisions

Your son or daughter’s friends and peers have a significant influence on their behaviour, and their need to fit in and be accepted. So, if their friends are inclined towards risk taking, it’s likely your son  will be too.

It often isn’t until adulthood we are better able to make our decisions for ourselves we aren’t so heavily influenced by our friends and peers. Good self-esteem helps us make wiser decisions and also how to react to our peers.

Not all risk taking is negative. Positive risk taking occurs too and the rewards of positive risk taking are just as dopamine-inducing and a great way for teenagers to experience the natural and safer high.

Risky behaviour: positive or negative?

Negative risks can have harmful consequences on a teenager’s health, safety and wellbeing. Generally teenagers like to push boundaries and take risks because the ‘reward’ often outweighs the consequences.

Some examples are of some negative risks that could be of concern:

Positive risk-taking is about learning new things and exploring unfamiliar territory. Going outside your comfort zone, like auditioning for a play or asking someone out are examples.

These risks are positive because, while they still create a feeling of uncertainty or fear, a new skill can be developed or there’s a possibility of a positive outcome. Positive risks can result in the same rewarding feeling as negative ones.

Encouraging your son or daughter to take positive risks is a good skill. They will then learn things about themselves and their abilities in a safe and rewarding way.

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