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Many theorists believe that adolescents who are independent of their parents become dependent on their peers. Thus, they become susceptible to peer pressure. Adolescence is the age in which people establish an identity to evade the confusion of identity crisis.  At this age, adolescents pay much attention to their friends who evidently wield power over. This phenomenon is peer pressure, defined as the influence from members of the same group. There is peer pressure at different ages and places. For example, workers in the same company have positive peer pressure because every one of them tries to  work to the best of their ability in the workplace. Peer pressure can be found amongst small kids; they try to imitate the same gestures and play with the same toys. There is also peer pressure in ethnic groups, and, finally, there is peer pressure among adolescents. This is the most powerful kind of peer pressure since it influences the adolescents’ personality and affects morality development. This research paper examines the dynamics of adolescent autonomy within the family and the entire community, and susceptibility to peer pressure.

When children reach the adolescent stage, they tend to have various peer relationships, interacting with several peer groups. This typically replaces the teens’ family as the center of leisure and social activities. Most of them give in to peer pressure to fit in with the group. This is largely motivated by curiosity as they want to try out new things, just like their   peers. As they grow up and develop, teenagers increasingly involve themselves with peers, increasing the attraction of peer identification. As preadolescents go through rapid social, emotional and physical changes, they start to question the adult standards involved, and the importance of parental guidance. They deem it appropriate to turn to friends for advice. According to them, friends understand and sympathize with them best (Johnston, 2010).

There are two levels of peer pressure. The first one is a large group which includes influences from  school, youth groups and home- school groups. This is the type that gets the highest attention. The second level is the close relationship with one, or several, best friends.  The large group applies a general pressure on its members and directs the trends in music, entertainment, clothing, music, and political views. The pressure to conform to these trends varies. It is just what the other friends are doing and not necessarily spoken or written guidelines. This pressure can be avoided by keeping quiet or adoption to the conformity of appearance. The pressure, which one finds, among close friends is not so easy to evade. The teens can not fake the relationships; they know what to stand for and believe. The nature of these friendships is that they care more about themselves and their own opinions than those of anybody else. What the best friend approves or disapproves exerts enormous pressure on them (Johnston, 2010). Peer pressure is the most crucial factor that affects adolescents in all aspects of their lives, and the entire society needs to step up to establish effective structures to help teens in dealing with influence of peer pressure.

Thesis Statement: The personality and behavior adopted by teenagers is strongly influenced by peer pressure.

Discussion

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is an omnipresent force that is inevitable in every direction of an adolescent’s behavior.  It can be manifested either in a positive or negative way. Peer pressure may influence adolescents to engage in activities beneficial for themselves and the society. However, in most cases the impact of peer pressure is normally adverse. Every adolescent encounters some form of peer pressure in his or her life. Most  affected groups are from parents who are overly permissive, authoritarian, or come from single-parent or dysfunctional homes. Adolescents with low self confidence and esteem or exposed to antisocial behavior are equally vulnerable. Adolescence is a period when a child tries to figure out the identity and at the same time adjust to numerous physical changes. Teens find themselves living with increased autonomy as they rely less on their parents, and this freedom makes them spend more time with their peers. They begin sharing thoughts, interests, and concerns with their peers. This makes them become exceedingly self-conscious, and they begin yearning for acceptance. Adolescents will often do anything to get their peers’ approval, and this compromises their values, beliefs and morals (Nouhad, 2006).

When adolescents begin to conform to peer pressure, they often show some signs which include changes in language, attitude, behavior, clothing, preferences to music, morals, values or beliefs. The most effective way to prevent the adolescents from conforming to negative peer influence is to prepare them for adolescence changes. Parents and teachers can play a monumental role in achieving conformity. They should sensitize adolescents on the need to develop principles. In essence, they should realize that they will be held accountable for their own decisions. In case an adolescent succumbs to negative peer pressure, a peer-led intervention can be helpful in converting this peer influence into a force that is positive and helpful rather than associated with the negative pressure.

Drug Abuse

Drug abuse is an illustration of one of the dangerous effects of negative peer pressure on adolescents. Teens get involved in drug abuse with the excuse that ‘everyone else is using it with no visible problems’. The principal reason is the peer pressure, as everyone in the group has the obligation to conform to the rules set by the group by doing the same thing. They get into drug abuse fully aware of the harmful effects to their health. Teens then end up breaking the fundamental rules they learnt from their parents and teachers. They tend to derive their self-esteem from the peer groups, and can be rendered powerless if they leave these groups (Simons-Morton & Chen, 2006).

Peer influence serves as a crucial determinant, since the use of substance rates as a highly social behavior. Use of drugs prevails among teens through a social intermediary which is their peers. Besides, some peers introduce drugs to others. Those who succumb to addiction try to push others into addiction too, and, given the fact that teens have weak personalities, the agenda is often realized.

Peers also push each other to drug abuse because of conformity. During adolescence, teens want to conform regardless of the price, and in most cases, addiction to illicit drugs is the ultimate price they pay. The main problem of teens overuse is addiction to drinking, smoking, or illicit substances. Adolescents are usually secretive about their addiction, and rarely seek help.   The addiction is usually revealed when it is full blown. Such instances include sickening symptoms, violence, and even death (Johnston, 2010).

Adverse appearance change is another major sign of the negative effects of peer pressure on adolescents. This is a negative aspect as it leads teens to lose their identity in order to fit in the peer group, as they push to change their appearance. Members of the same peer group tend to wear the same clothes which are unique, and reveal the views shared or held by the group. They can put on hip-hop clothes if they are  hip-hop fans, or they can wear a gang fashion to show how violent they are, and show that they belong to another peer group. Nevertheless, all peers wear the same clothes and lack liberty to do something different. In case they try something different, they face criticism/ridicule from their fellow friends, which makes them develop low self-confidence and self-esteem (Simons-Morton & Chen, 2006).

Girls are usually more affected by peer influence on their appearance by peers than boys. They feel the need to dress nicely in fashionable clothes because if they do not, they face rejection by their friends. Another form of pressure on girls is media pressure. The media give a standard, beautiful, portrait to all the teenage girls. Most adolescent girls have a role model with an almost perfect body, which they try to imitate and possess the same attractiveness that she gets from the standard body. They end up going through several complications such as eating disorders (e.g. bulimia, anorexia) in pursuit of a ‘perfect body’. Since this normally proves to be difficult and even impossible, and most succumb to yo-yo dieting. This leads to haphazard weight increments and loss (Sheid, 2005).

Parents’ Roles in Dealing with Peer Pressure

The issue of adolescents and peer pressure is a sensitive topic and forms an issue for widespread discussion/debate.  However, many people do not understand the magnitude of peer pressure effect. Parents worry all the time about what their kids might be pressured into doing by their peers. The truth of the matter, however, is that teens rarely push each other into doing risky things unless the peers are doing the same. A kid’s peers play a vital role in his/ her decisions since a lot of time is spent within the peer group. Adolescents usually feel internal pressure to explore similar things to their peers. For example, most parents assume that drugs and alcohol are an adolescent’s rite of passage while most kids wildly overestimate the prevalence of drugs and alcohol use. Teens always use what has been endorsed by the peer group and refrain from using those despised by the peer group (Wallace, 2008).

The influence of parents is normally strong in a kid’s life, and most parents overlook this phenomenon. A child will adopt a new dress code to fit in with friends, but still remain aware of the parents’ thoughts and opinions.  The child might be feeling intense pressure to fit in and may not talk about it. It becomes necessary for the parent to try and connect with the child in order to understand and empathize with the child’s experience.  The parents need to set up rules and structure on the framework for understanding the world in a bid to combat teenage rebellion. Punishment is also a way of ensuring that adolescents learn to deal with consequences of their behaviors.

Parents should raise their children to have good principles and logical opinions. Indeed, it is the pride of parents to have well-cultured children. An opinionated child has practice speaking his/ her own mind. They should also be encouraged to build meaningful relationships with friends, as this is an essential part of their development. Frequent conversations may help the child to develop friendship skills. Teens tend to come under the influence of a friend who constantly acts out. The challenge then becomes parents’ sharing their point of view without criticizing a friend in question (Wallace, 2008).

Parents can also help a child to ward off peer pressure by exercising role playing and visualization. This will prepare an adolescent to effectively handle real life scenarios.  Often teenagers get caught in the moment and engage in wayward behavior.  No matter the teachings from parents and teachers, many teens still mess up. Parents should be ready to help  teens in taking responsibility for their own mistakes, and support them in endeavors of progress. They need to teach the teens on how to make decisions and encourage self-reflection. Parents can not anticipate every social challenge the teens face, but as long as a teen knows that the parents love them and values their own opinions, they will practice critical thinking (Brown & Klute, 2006).

In the period of adolescence, teens show their independence and take up the roles of adults. They start to spend all their free time with their friends, initiating the cutting of close family bonds and neglecting parents’ ideals. The teens begin to renegotiate the parent- child relationship trying to make the parents treat them as mature and fully independent individuals. The parents still remain immensely influential and significant forces in the teens’ lives. The adolescents continue to share the same religious, political and beliefs as their parents. Teens that have positive and close relationships with their parents tend to have the same positive and healthy relationships with their friends. Typically, the conflicts between parents and adolescents increase between childhood stage and early adolescence, although the intensity and frequency of these conflicts remains low in most families. These conflicts result from the renegotiation of relationship and the continuous attempts by parents to communicate with their adolescent kids. Parents to these adolescents should allow them to engage in setting the regulations and making decisions that influence their lives directly. Proper communication between parents and teens aids in maintaining close-knit relationships between these two parties, even amidst conflicts. Parents need to maintain a strategy of open communication with their children, rather than just trying to prevent conflict situations (Brown & Klute, 2006).

Friendships, Peers and Adolescence

Research shows that peer pressure is the key factor that has much impact on adolescent behavior (Prinstein, 2001). They spend much time interacting with peers, and this has a more powerful influence on them than  teachers and other authority figures. The most affected groups are  teens with low self-esteem, who have the compellation to fit in, and end up doing things against their will just to try to be part of the group. Peer pressure drives adolescents to experiment in various activities such as taking drug, alcohol, sex and other high risk behaviors. A sudden change in a child’s appearance, attitude, and clothing may imply that the child is succumbing to peer pressure. This is also evident with an unidentified change in the friends a teen associates with, indicating his/ her vulnerability to new influences (Prinstein, 2001).

Parents need to set up a clear structure for a child’s behavior, establish rules on communicating their whereabouts, and pre-set consequences involved for their actions. Adolescents may not have the basis to claim they did not know their parents reactions if their parents communicate their expectations. Parents usually find it to be hard to control their adolescent kids from hanging out with  wrong friends, who normally turn out to be virtual magnets for their teens. When the parents set rules on communicating the teen’s whereabouts, they limit the influences of any peer group. However, if one feels that a peer group has a negative influence on a child, it becomes necessary to deal with the reasons behind the primary issues that cause the influence. The child may be having issues with self-confidence and self-esteem and feel the necessity to fit in even if it is with a negative peer group. During the time of adolescence teens develop close friendships that last far longer than childhood ones. This is usually an essential part of their development. Such friendships give teens and opportunity to explore their personalities, and a feeling of belonging and acceptance. These forms of friendships also encourage adolescents to practice and improve their social skills which every person needs to possess in order to succeed in life. Parents normally get concerned when their kids become too involved with their acquaintances and friends. They fear that peers will affect their children negatively and they will rebuff their family beliefs and values. They can also be forced to engage in risky and negative or even delinquent activities (Nouhad, 2006).

The reality to peer pressure is more complicated than the established notion of the negative influence of friends. As a rule, people consider that peer influence only leads to unsafe and unhealthy behaviors. Peer influence can sometimes motivate teens to work hard in school, participate in sports, volunteer for social services and community and participate in other valuable endeavors. Peer pressure is also not an easy process in which teens are simply influenced by their counterparts. Teenagers tend to make friends with the people they have something in common with. Peers who share common interests, academic ground, and enjoy doing the same activities usually attract to each other. Teens tend to socialize with those of the same age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Friendships formed during adolescence often last for a lifetime, they are firmer and more exclusive than those made during the childhood period. New levels and types of relationships appear with the adolescents beginning to show the capacity of being intimate, and form deep friendships. They report having the most fun and happiest times with their peers because of the interests they share as well as close relationships (Brown & Klute, 2006).

Adults perceive peers as dangerous groups exerting an unfavorable influence on their members. This is somehow inaccurate as peers do strengthen values of their families. Although overemphasis is on the negative influence, teenagers can be encouraged to experience peer group and family as mutually beneficial environments.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The process of identity development in adolescents can arise from the perception of the importance of  social cultural environment. Peer pressure acts as the main negative influence to adolescents. It introduces teens to drug abuse resulting in addiction, health problems, and even mental disorders. Attitudes and behavior are also influenced by r peers as they conform to the peers groups, and adapt their thoughts to the groups’ (Nouhad, 2006). We tend to overestimate the negative influence of peers. However there are a lot of things that can assist the teenagers in experiencing the advantages of interaction of family and various peer groups. To reach this, Families, schools, churches, communities,  and other social groups can all cooperate in order to help the teenagers in developing positive and meaningful peer relationships. This will influence adolescents to shun the negative impact of their friends and acquaintances.

Different components of the community need to come together to formulate effective strategies to help the adolescents in coping with peer influence. Parents, teachers, community leaders and the youth need to come together and invent effective and feasible strategies that will guide the adolescents in their behavior, and help them move from childhood to adulthood easily.

Parents, relatives and other professionals should develop positive and constructive relationships with  teens. In this way, the teens feel valued and can develop positive attributes about themselves. Parents need to understand the development tendencies of the peer groups, and to be aware of the expectations coupled with the demands that teens encounter in peer relationships. Seeking information and showing interests in the issues that affect adolescents can show the teens that the community are caring and in solidarity with their cause.  Adolescents’ abilities and self-esteem are crucial attributes that if nurtured, can help equip them to have positive peer relations, and deflect from negative influences. Teens with positive self worth and self confidence can not be easily swayed in following the negative influences of their peers. Appreciation of gender, ethnicity, religion and the socioeconomic status, and other differences can encourage teens from diverse backgrounds to play and work together. Adolescents face different situations and they always have to decide whether to yield to the peer pressure amongst other problematic decisions. It is necessary to equip them with necessary skills to resist negative behaviors and make sound decisions. For example, if a teen is forced to smoke, he/she should weigh out the desired outcome like looking stylish and getting excitement, with the probable harmful effects like health and financial implications.

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