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Teen Life Q&A Special: FAQ on Peer Pressure
Your most frequently asked questions about peer pressure.
 More of this Feature
• FAQ/Peer Pressure Part 1
• FAQ/Peer Pressure Part 2
• FAQ/Peer Pressure Part 4
• FAQ/Peer Pressure Part 5
• FAQ/Peer Pressure Part 6
• FAQ/Peer Pressure Part 7
• All Questions
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Why does peer pressure make normally good kids do bad things?

The need to feel accepted is strong during the teen years. Self identity is not yet formed, it is just starting to be discovered, and this can lead to a steady state of uncertainty. Teens want to belong and it is hard to belong if you are always going against the grain. This is why teens are more likely than other groups to succomb to group pressures of conformity. Most often this pressure is not very harmful; teens in the same group will dress the same, talk the same, be interested in the same activities, listen to the same music, and spend time with the same people. But in extreme cases the need to be accepted can lead people to do things that they would not normally do on their own. If a group norm includes drug use and a teen who is not accepted by other groups is accepted in the drug using group they may feel a great deal of pressure to start using themselves. Why? Because the teen who has felt marginalized by other groups has finally found a place where he/she is accepted and they do not want to lose the sense of security that acceptance in a group entails. Friends are a big part of the emerging self identity and the thought of losing them during the early stages of identity development is very hard to face. The irony is that peer pressure to do drugs, or drink alcohol or have sex are often more perception than reality. Teens who fall into groups that engage in these behaviors often feel pressured to conform when the group itself is not really exerting any such pressure. The teens need to fit in causes the pressure, not the actions of the peer group. As one recovering teen drug addict once said, "I never cared if my friends got high or not. If they stayed straight it just left more for me!" The idea that a group with anti-social norms leads good kids astray may not be entirely true; the individuals insecurities may be the real culprit. Peer pressure is much more likely to lead a teen to walk, talk and act a certain way than it is to lead them to do bad, harmful or self destructive things.

Is bullying caused by peer pressure?

Peer pressure most definitely plays a role in bullying. When a teen is generally perceived as weak, odd, or different by the majority of his/her peers he/she becomes a safe target for bullies. If the general opinion of a person is negative a bully is less likely to be rejected or ostracized for picking on them. This is the role that peer pressure plays in bullying. Bullies do not want to be disliked, in fact many kids bully out of a deep sense of insecurity and self loathing, and because of this they do not want to pick on people that will cause the majority of their peers to dislike them. The bully picks an easy target, somebody that others are unlikely to defend or get upset over. The peer pressure to be liked combined with the peer pressure to reject the person who seems different leads to bullies picking on kids who are already struggling with their own social issues. It is a sad and vicious fact that many bullies are very popular with their peers. These bullies have made their popularity contingent on their picking on an outcast peer and the pressure to keep up that image keeps the cycle alive and kicking. The only acception to this are bullies who become bullies because they don't fit in. But as a general rule, most bullies are popular and liked by the majority of their peers - the peers that they leave alone. Sadly, the more popular the bully the less likely adults are to call the behavior bullying. Popular teens often act "appropriately" toward teachers and around adults so they are not percieved as being naturally problematic. Teens who are odd or vastly different tend to act this way around adults as well and this only compounds the problem. The peer pressure to accept people who are well liked or well behaved around authority can even impact how adults behave. If bullying is ever to be stopped, the complex role of peer pressure in the bullying phenomena has to be brought under control.

Next Page > FAQ's on Peer Pressure Part 4 > Pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8



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