Tackling Peer Pressure

Experiences with positive and negative peer pressure shape who we become

According to the National Library of Medicine, 85% of high schoolers have felt peer pressure. 80% of teens began smoking due to peer influence and 75% have tried alcohol due to it. Peer pressure is the external force that influences decision-making that has effects on mental and physical health. 

“I would say from the time that you’re born, until the time you’re through college, you’re just so easily influenced in good and bad ways. Our brains are evolving so much, that we’re trying to take it all in and [trying to] figure out who we are and develop our own sense of self,” Counselor Jodi Therkelsen said. 

Teenagers are more susceptible to peer pressure because they are highly influenced by their environment due to their brains lacking development in areas that deal with decision-making and judgment. Lacking this makes teens more sensitive to social pressures and impulsive behaviors. This is seen when teenagers are more likely to do something impulsive when around friends. 

Junior Taka Goremusandu feels the most pressure among his friends and has had past experiences with impulsive decision-making around them. 

“I am around them [my friends] five days a week at school, then [on] weekends I am around them the most. So as you are around them a lot, you pick up on what they do, and how they act. So if they act a certain way you will probably follow them and what they do,” Goremusandu said. 

An experiment done at Temple University by psychologists Jason Chein and Lawrence Steinberg tested if teenagers are more likely to take risks when surrounded by peers. The results showed that, compared to adults, teens were more likely to be vulnerable to making risky choices when they had company.

“It [peer pressure] affects our age the most because when you get into high school you are trying to find your way around life. As an adult you have everything set in stone,” Goremusandu said.

Peer pressure is usually talked about in a negative light, but there are a lot of positive impacts that come from constructive peer pressure. 

“For me, I have surrounded myself with good people, so it’s mostly positive peer pressure. They are encouraging like, ‘you can do this, I know you can,’” sophomore Kaiden Carmichel said. 

Positive peer pressure can make a lasting impact on your life and give you a sense of belonging and self-confidence. Therefore, it is important to be able to remove yourself from negative situations by setting boundaries, looking for positive relationships, and knowing that you can’t please everyone. 

“I think surrounding yourself with people you are more comfortable with and that have a similar personality, and not trying to fit into every friend group because you’re really not going to,” said Carmichel. 

Avoiding negative peer pressure for yourself is important, but being able to stand up for people who are easily influenced and don’t have the confidence to do so themselves is equally important. 

“I think if you notice that somebody else is getting a lot of peer pressure in a negative way, it’s important to be able to stand behind them because that will not only give that person confidence, to say the right thing or do the right thing, but hopefully, it’ll give the negative source an idea to back off,” Therkelsen said. 

Negative peer pressure is a huge issue many teens deal with. Bringing awareness and being able to identify when things are going wrong is key to making responsible decisions for yourself.