• What is Peer Pressure? — Peer Pressure Definition
  • Effects of Peer Pressure – Positive or Negative
  • The Need for Open and Honest Communication

What Parents Need to Know About Teens and Peer Pressure?

Understanding the Power of Peer Pressure

The moment your child is born, they are completely dependent on you for love and support. You are their world and nothing is more important for them than to feel safe and secure. As your child grows and you nurture them to become an independent youth, their circle of influence becomes larger and you may feel that your role is not as important to your child. This is when your child needs you even more to offer structure and stability to their lives, with guidelines about home, school, family life and their friends.

What is Peer Pressure?

Peer Pressure can be either a positive or a negative for your teen. Wanting to fit in and be part of a group, is basic to us as human beings. Being accepted and cared for are basic needs that we all strive for throughout our lives.
When peer pressure is positive, your teen will develop healthy relationships with their peers, but when it becomes a negative pressure, teens often make unhealthy choices and take risks that, in their mind, will ensure that they are ‘accepted; by their group.

Effects of Peer Pressure

Developmentally, for adolescents, it is normal and natural to want to spend more time with friends to develop relationships and an identity with their peers. When the pressure from their peer group becomes a negative, often teens feel pressured to engage in activities that they may not feel comfortable with.

There are certain ‘risk factors’ that make a teen more prone to the negative effects of peer pressure.

These can be characteristic traits including:

  • Confidence level
  • Personality
  • Degree of maturity

Typically, the following are relevant to the effects of peer pressure:

  • Boys are more susceptible than girls, particularly in risky situations.
  • Younger teens are more influenced than older teens.
  • Parents’ influences including college and vocational choices, political, moral and religious concerns.

The Need for Open and Honest Communication

There is a need for parents to encourage and maintain open and honest communication with their youth. Part of this communication includes setting good boundaries about what parents expect from their youth and what their guidelines are about certain behaviors, i.e curfew, chores, television and computer time, etc. There are many ways that parents can engage their teen to enhance their communication within their family structure including the following:

  1. Acceptance: This is critical for teens during their formative years, to feel accepted by their parents and family for the young person that they are becoming. They will have their own ideas and opinions about certain issues and need to feel that their voice is just as important to be heard.
  2. Approval: This is an ongoing need for everyone, and during the teen years, it becomes even more important for youth who are aspiring to do well in school, sports and other curricular activities, that their choices and decisions be considered and respected by their family.
  3. Belonging: This is a basic need for all, but becomes especially important for children to feel a part of a group, to feel connected with their peers. If the feeling of belonging is strong for the family unit, youth tend to extend that feeling to their friends and are able to build strong and healthy relationships.

Dorthe Flauer, Executive Director, SAFFRON Centre Ltd.