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From the beginning, parents try to teach their children how to make healthy, positive choices. But, as they age, the influence of parents decreases and the opinion of peers becomes more and more important to the adolescent community. The effects of peer pressure begin to affect a whole range of actions, behaviors, and thoughts. This can include school performance, substance use, and mental health.
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Peer pressure is external or internal pressure to behave in certain ways. It can be good or bad. It may begin as early as age 10 with the social groups formed in elementary school and increases throughout middle school and high school.
Research shows that the most impressionable age for influence by peers appears to be the middle school years. This is when children form new friendships and choose their identity among those friends. It’s also the most common age for kids to start exploring drug and alcohol use, sexual activity, and other risky behaviors. The pressure to conform is intense at this age, but teens with larger groups of friends seem to be less influenced by the suggestions and behaviors of their peers.
Teen peer pressure is a complicated subject and it’s not just normal, it’s unavoidable. As children grow, they want to spend less time with their parents and more time with their friends–even if it’s only on social media. And the influence of peers is powerful.
However, the reality is that although your teen might be feeling that they are grown up, their brains are still developing. You might be surprised to know that there are different types of peer pressure for this age group. We usually think of peer pressure as negative, but it can also be positive.
Teens may experience several different types of peer pressure. They include
Teens have additional unconnected synapses in the area of the brain where risk assessment occurs. Synapses are small spaces between two cells, where they can pass messages to communicate. Having these spaces unconnected gets in the way of judgment. Likewise, the prefrontal cortex in the brain is underdeveloped. This makes teens more sensitive to peer pressure and impulsive, risky behavior simply because they want to be accepted.
In-person interactions can be both positive and negative and the same can be said of communication through social media. Social media is available constantly, which enables teens to receive messages 24 hours a day. This means that it has a huge potential to magnify feelings of both positive and negative peer pressure.
One of the common misrepresentations on social media is when people post the “best” times of their lives, which creates a false sense of reality. This can cause teens to compare the reality of their lives to the picture-perfect images of others’ lives and feel pressure to keep up. In addition, the lack of in-person feedback can create an environment where people share harmful or abusive content and comments that they wouldn’t typically say in person. This is called “trolling” and it’s a widespread form of negative peer pressure that happens on social media. There have been cases of harmful online challenges that have the potential to impact a child’s health negatively.
It has long been noted by social scientists that people tend to place themselves and others into agreed-upon and labeled social types. Adolescents also tend to segregate themselves into different peer group types. Identification of an adolescent in a peer group is based on what they perceive about themselves and what others perceive about them.
They give names to their peer group types (as illustrated in popular movies). Group names that adolescents give themselves or each other suggest the groups’ lifestyle characteristics such as shared beliefs, interests in music and clothes, and preferences for certain activities.
Teens may identify with groups to develop their sense of identity and a positive self-concept, along with a feeling of independence from their parents.
Studies suggest that teen peer groups are made of five general categories:
The study found that the Deviant group reported generally greater participation in drug use and other behavior problems. However, the Academics and Athletes showed the least participation in problem behaviors. Because of their lack of experience, teens are frequently not sure about the lifestyle decisions they should make and are likely to look for a place among a peer group by conforming to the group’s norms.
The effects of negative peer pressure are typically related to influencing:
The effects of these behaviors can lower self-confidence, and self-esteem, and distance the teen from family and friends.
Research indicates that there is a direct, positive relationship between peer pressure and depression in young people. At its worst, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and other harmful behaviors. It also states that peer pressure is a predictor of increased levels of stress, anxiety, and sleep problems.
Due to the effects that peer pressure can have on teens, parents need to strengthen communication with their teens. Open communication can help their teen prepare for negative peer pressure and respond healthily.
If you’re worried about your child, there is specialized help available at Orlando Treatment Solutions. We can make a thorough assessment of your teen and recommend one of our intensive outpatient programs. We can provide a regular intensive program or our higher level of care, a partial hospitalization program.
Our programs include individual, group, and family therapy because we understand that when one member of the family has an issue with substances or a mental health disorder, all members are affected.
The special Adolescent Treatment Center will help your child feel more comfortable expressing themself and opening up about their issues with a group of peers. Research has shown that treatment is more effective when individuals feel that other people can understand their experiences–another example of the importance of peers. Contact us today before peer pressure has controlled your child down the wrong path.
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