How Can Peer Group Influence the Behavior of Adolescents?

Adolescents are more prone to being involved in drug abuse and crime if they succumb to peer pressure. This is evident in a study carried out by Lamsaouri (1994-1995), in which all of the adolescents stated that they abused drugs because everyone else was doing it and they didn’t see a problem with it. This is enforced by peer pressure. This is also an example of observational learning from Bandura’s social learning theory (1977), within the social learning theory they observe and imitate with an external reinforcement which in this case is the approval of peers because everyone in the same group has to do the same thing and conform to the rules of the group even if they know it’s harmful.

In regards to crime, according to Zimring, (1998) statistics showed that adolescents are more likely to commit crimes when with peers. This is further reinforced by Dishion, Bullock, & Granic, (2002) who claimed that friendship choices create peer pressure and give deviancy training just by affiliation.

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Therefore, peer pressure increases the chances of committing a crime and deviant behaviour.

Another negative effect of peer pressure is the manipulation of adolescents’ attitudes and behaviour. This occurs due to adolescents wanting to be around friends who are their age as they will be more comfortable with one another and share common interests. This creates a sense of belonging and leads to a formation of a group. However, this group can share ideas that can harm their identity (Haynie, 2002) because they will end up believing things they didn’t before and losing their values, their behaviour changes.

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Identity is how a person is viewed. It is conveyed through activities that cause a sense of self realisation. Berzonsky’s social-cognitive theory of identity styles (1988; as cited in Guardia, 2009), defines identity as the cognitive model of how someone processes and examines relevant information. Adolescents’ identity development correlates to their relationships with their peers, attachment and support from peers as well as romantic relationships.

Peer pressure also affects behaviour as it increases risk-taking behaviour. This is evident in a study conducted by Gardner & Steinberg (2005). They looked at the influence peer pressure had on adolescents (aged 13 – 16 years) behaviour when it came to driving in a computerised stimulation. When the two same sex peers joined the participants in the room, the participants drove the car up to a traffic light, which turned from green to amber. They had to decide whether to stop or continue. If they continued, they would win points, but risked crashing into a wall and losing all of their points if the light turned red. The two peers were told to advise the participant on whether to continue moving the car or stop. The results showed that when adolescents played with two peers present they took more risks than when they were playing alone. Whereas with adult participants aged 52 and over their behaviour did not change either way.

This is reinforced by a poll of 1,000 learner and qualified drivers aged 17-19, November 2016 done by MORE TH>N Insurance which showed that 68% of young new drivers experience intense in-car peer pressure and 44% of young drivers admitted to speeding, all due to them being encouraged by their friends or to impress them. The following quote by an anonymous teenager also enforces this; “·it seems like people accept you more if you’re, like, a dangerous driver or something. If there is a line of cars going down the road and the other lane is clear and you pass eight cars at once, everybody likes that. [·] If my friends are with me in the car, or if there are a lot of people in the line, I would do it, but if I’m by myself and I didn’t know anybody then I wouldn’t do it. That’s no fun.'”, as reported in The Culture of Adolescent Risk-Taking (Lightfoot, 1997; p.10).

In relation to identity peer pressure also has a negative impact on an adolescent’s appearance. This is because their peers will push them to change their appearance. Therefore adolescents end up losing their true identity and become someone else after dissolving within the group. They also lose their independence as they become fixated on their peers choices and depend on their judgments. Adolescents get their self esteem from their peers and don’t forget their comments. They want to please and be accepted. There is a pressure to fit in as during the adolescent period they tend to lean on their friends more than family (Lamsaouri, 2005). As adolescents get their body image model from their peers, peer pressure is important for the process of identity development. As a result of this, Harvey (2002) explains how young girls get disorders such as bulimia, due to the pressure of having a perfect body which seems out of reach so they eat anything, while on the other hand they also develop anorexia in which they believe eating is forbidden because they’re obsessed with having the perfect body which is imposed by both the media and peers.

However although, there is usually a stigma of negativity attached to peer pressure, it can also have a positive effect too. For example, if there is an exam coming up and some people in a friendship are revising so they can succeed, there will be a subconscious pressure on each other teen in the group to also revise and do well. This is usually due to the fact that during the adolescent period there is a need for approval and acceptance from peers as due to puberty and its changes teens become quite insecure. It is also a positive influence as it encourages teens to try new activities. In the article “Teens and Decision Making: What Brain Science Reveals” (2008), it states that teens can potentially shape their own brain development through a process called synaptic pruning which means that the brain this removes any weak connections and instead redirects resources towards active connections. Thus meaning that, positive peer influence can provide stimulating challenges and build strong connections within the brain through physical, learning, and creative activities.

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How Can Peer Group Influence the Behavior of Adolescents?. (2019, Nov 25). Retrieved from

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