Teen peer pressure: Why does it happen and how to deal with it?

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Teenage years are the time when children make most of their friends. They have fun with them, they confide in them and they get influenced by them. But with the friendship and social circle comes peer pressure.

Teen peer pressure can lead to some adverse outcomes and an unpleasant atmosphere at home. We tell you everything about peer pressure in teens — examples, the good and bad, and how parents can deal with it.

What Is Peer Pressure?

Peer pressure is a situation where the teen feels compelled to do something because they want to be a part of a social circle and be valued by it. Friends and members of a larger group (classmates, schoolmates, etc.,) constitute the peers.

The teen gives more importance to their peers’ opinion than their own thoughts. Hence, peer pressure can make the teen do things that they would otherwise not do.

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Why Does Peer Pressure Influence Teens?

Here is why teens get easily influenced by their peers:

  1. Importance to peers’ opinion: Teenagers lay a lot of emphasis on the opinion of their friends and the larger group. Often, teens make a is aligned with the larger group instead of staying independent. Research has found that teenagers are likely to take more risks, such as speeding on a car, when their friends are watching them (1).
  1. Rapid teenage transformation: Several mental and physical changes occur during the adolescent years. There is a natural urge to forge friendships with those of the same age and those going through similar changes in life. The teen feels that the best way to become friends with someone is by behaving in the same manner as their peers do.
  1. A strong urge to fit-in: The need to fit-in could be so great that it can drive the teen to make impaired and risky decisions, which the teen may perceive to be “cool”.
  1. Risk taking: Teenagers are most likely to ignore risks in favor of a reward while being under the influence of peer pressure (2). A teen is likely to be involved in a crime or consume alcohol when they are in a group of peers (3). A teenager is also five times more likely to be involved in a car accident since they are most likely to drink and drive when with peers (4).

People are the most vulnerable to peer pressure in their teenage years, and the pressure can manifest in various ways. Let’s see some examples.

[ Read: Teenage Behavior Problems ]

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Examples Of Teen Peer Pressure

Below, we have listed some of the most common scenarios of peer pressure among teens; some might be good while some are harmful for the teenager:

  • Changing one’s talking style to mimic those in the friend circle; using words that are often used by peers.
  • Copying the dressing style, haircuts, and jewelry.
  • Watching the same movies and TV shows as friends. Listening to the same music as friends.
  • Participating in competitions or joining groups like a sports or singing group.
  • Doing risky acts like breaking rules. Often the rule is broken in a group or after seeing someone in the peer circle do it.
  • Indulging in activities like smoking, drinking, using drugs, or sexual activities.

As the examples indicate, peer pressure can be both negative and positive.

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Types Of Teen Peer Pressure

Peer pressure can be either negative or positive depending on the type of social circle:

  1. Negative peer pressure: Causes the teen to pick habits that are inappropriate for their age. Examples include underage drinking, smoking, drug abuse, having unsafe sex and doing illegal activities.
  1. Positive peer pressure: This makes the teen do positive things such as joining in a gym to maintain a healthy weight, participating in competitions, joining a hobby group, and following some good, everyday habits like eating healthy food because peers do the same.

Positive peer pressure is indeed a delight for parents who may otherwise struggle to convince their child to take up good habits. It is the negative peer pressure, which is worrisome.

[ Read: How Does Peer Pressure Influence Teen Pregnancy? ]

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When To Be Concerned About Teen Peer Pressure?

Negative peer pressure can be a problem if you see the below signs in your teen:

  1. A sudden change in behavior; display of aggression and erratic behavior like never before.
  1. The teen speaks in monosyllables and does not talk openly with family members.
  1. They seem depressed or anxious all the while.
  1. The teen gets angry even with simple matters; are aggressive and short-tempered.
  1. Having trouble falling asleep, and irregular sleeping pattern.
  1. Changes in the physical appearance that make the teen appear unwell.
  1. A loss of appetite or trouble eating.
  1. Withdrawal from activities and social groups that the child once enjoyed.
  1. Reluctance to go outside the house or go to school.
  1. Speaking negatively about life and saying words that suggest that the teen has given up all hope.

A combination of all or a few of these signs in your child means they need your help.

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How Can Parents Help Manage Teen Peer Pressure?

Here is what you can do to keep negative peer pressure away from your teen. The steps involved are usually a part of good parenting.

  1. Ask specific questions about their day: Ask specific rather than open-ended questions about how their day was- such as, “What did you do in your favorite subject today?” “Who was your lab partner?” Rather than, “How was your day” and “Do you like school?” This way, you’ll get answers that are longer than a yes or a no. Have a conversation with them every day to keep yourself updated about the events in the teenager’s life. However, make sure you don’t sound interrogative. It also allows the teen to know that their parents are open to communication, and he/she can rely on them for emotional support.
  1. Maintain a calm approach: If your teen just confessed that they had a drink today due to peer pressure, appreciate their honesty. You can then ask them how they felt after taking the drink, “Did it make you feel dizzy?” “What do you think the effects on your body were?” Do not get angry or shout. It will make it harder for the teen to approach you with their problems and confess. Negative reaction to a confession or a problem can make the teen drift away from parents and get more involved in peer groups, who may encourage negative pacifiers like drugs and alcohol. Maintaining a more conversation like approach with your teen rather than shouting at them, can help them see for themself why drinking alcohol is not beneficial to them.
  1. Build self-confidence: Teens with poor confidence levels and low self-opinion are more likely to succumb to negative peer pressure. Parents can help the teen build self-confidence. Show them instances of how you yourself face peer pressure and have them watch you overcome it, modeling doing what is right in the face of negative peer pressure which they will see makes a person stronger. Take skill classes together or work on projects together where you and your teen can both feel proud.
  1. Set some rules: Have some rules for your children to follow. Let them know by when you expect them home every day, occasions when they can stay out late and the rules of driving. This will make the teen know what is acceptable and what is not.
  1. Teach polite yet firm ways to say “No”: Teach a child to decline a negative offer made by their friends. For instance, if the teen has several classmates who smoke, then teach the teen to decline any offer by saying “No, thank you. I do not want to smoke”. Show them videos that explain how smoking is harmful to the body. Let your child know that when others refuse to consider the harmful effects on their body, it is not worth engaging in an argument with those peers. The hope is that your child will know they don’t want to be in that situation and has the internal strength to leave it.
  1. Encourage interaction with a wider circle of friends: Motivate the teen to make friends not just at school, but in the neighborhood, a local park or at their hobby classes too. It will help bring an assortment of friends and acquaintances into their social life rather than one group so that the child can experience the influence of several peer groups. It can help dilute any negative peer pressure and also provide more friendship options. Finding peer support from a positive group is the best way to escape the influence of negative peer groups.

[ Read: Causes Of Teen Stress ]

Although you cannot make your teen choose their friends, you can give them opportunities to spend time with other teens, who resist negative peer pressure. Peer pressure does not last forever. Your child is less likely to be influenced by negative peer pressure as they grow older. However, if you feel the situation is getting out of hand, then take your teen to a psychologist or get in touch with a local helpline number.

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What are your views on teen peer pressure? Let us know in the comment section below.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Why Does Peer Pressure Influence Teens To Try Drugs?; National Institute on Drug Abuse
2. Peer Pressure; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
3. When it comes to peer pressure, teens are not alone; Temple University
4. L.Zhang, W.F. Wieczorek, & J.W. Welte, The Influence of Parental and Peer Drinking Behaviors on Underage Drinking and Driving by Young Men; National Center for Biotechnology Information


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