Peer Pressure: The Effects on Teenagers


            Each morning Jessica Morghan, 15, wakes up and dreads having to go to school. Why is this you ask? Well, Jessica has been in quite some trouble for the past year due to peer pressure and is now treated like a criminal. For the first four months of her new high school life at Benjamin Cardozo, she had made a new group of friends. These new friends weren't exactly little angels. At least one person in the group drinks, smokes, does drugs, cuts class for half the school year, has sex, or shop lifts. Spending time with these people influenced Jessica in a negative way. She's started smoking and has shoplifted and done drugs at least twice. Because of this, she's been suspended from school, arrested, sent to juvenile hall and has been under house arrest.

Define Peer Pressure...

            By definition, peer pressure is social pressure by members of one's peer group to take a certain action, adopt certain values, or otherwise conform in order to be accepted. Everyone, during a period of their life, experiences peer pressure. Peer pressure can be either positive or negative, although it is portrayed mostly as negative. Friends, family and people all around, can influence teenagers in a negative or positive way.   

            Positive effects of peer pressure are doing well in school, eating healthy, exercising, joining after-school programs and much more. Negative effects of peer pressure include doing drugs, smoking, shoplifting, cutting class, having sex, drinking alcohol, physical violence, doing badly in school, and so on.                                               

            There are three different forms of peer pressure: direct, indirect and individual. Direct peer pressure is a teenager or a group of teenagers actually telling another teenager what he/she should be doing or what is okay to do. Indirect peer pressure is not necessarily verbal peer pressure but optical peer pressure. One teenager who is hanging out with a group of friends who smoke or do drugs is exposed to this kind of negative behavior and may think it is acceptable. Individual peer pressure is trying too hard to fit in and doing things because other people are doing them.    

Why do teens give in?

            Peers can influence their friends to do absolutely anything. That is why the majority of teenagers base their decisions on their friends' actions. The more time teenagers spend with their peers, the more they trust them. If a teenager trusts a friend, they will most likely follow that friend's examples.                                                         

            The majority of teenagers are insecure. Because of this, they follow their peers and perform actions they aren't comfortable with. For example, a teenager is part of a group of friends that smoke cigarettes. One of the members of the group offers him/her a cigarette and tells him/her how cigarettes are no big deal, the teenager will feel extremely pressured to smoke and will most likely take the cigarette. 


            "Statistics prove that 30% of teenagers have shoplifted at least once due to peer pressure. Over half of teenagers will experiment with alcohol. About 40% of teenagers have tried drugs," states Jeanie Lerche Davis author of Teenagers: Why Do They Rebel.               

            Many teenagers want to feel accepted by their peers, so they do certain things to try and fit in with everyone else. Teenagers think that by following what their friends do, like smoking or drinking alcohol, they will seem ‘cool' or they fear that they'll look clueless or completely out of it if they don't.

Saying NO to peer pressure

            Although many teenagers do base their decisions on peer pressure, there is a way to say no. What most teenagers don't do is think about their own feelings and what they feel is right or wrong. When someone does something it is important that they want to do it and that they are not doing it just because of what everyone else thinks.


            What many teenagers need to do is build the self confidence to say no and walk away. Teenagers can reject negative offers by finding another friend who will say no with them. By having someone beside them, the teenager feels like they aren't the only one doing or not doing something. Staying away from people who do drugs, cut class, smoke and drink is helpful because there will not be any peer pressure to deal with. Making excuses like "I can't hang out tonight, I have to study." or "Sorry I'm busy tonight." can be of assistance when trying to avoid groups of teenagers who smoke, drink or do drugs. Talking to people close in age can help teenagers relate with each other. Many teenagers share the same problems and issues.         

What Consequences?

            Although many people think otherwise, peer pressure can affect a teenager by more than just influencing them. Peer pressure can cause depression and doing drugs, drinking alcohol and smoking can lead to life long problems.                           

            Teenagers can begin to feel lonely, helpless, and even more hopeless because they realize that their efforts to gain acceptance aren't working. Teens that feel rejected feel powerless and unimportant. These feelings can trigger depression. Depression can be expressed in anger, agitation and sometimes suicide.                                                      

            Getting involved with smoking, drinking, and doing drugs can lead to many negative issues. Smoking is an addictive habit and can lead to health problems such as lung cancer and emphysema. Drugs, also being addicting, destroy brain cells. Drug users or junkies have an extremely hard time trying to stop doing drugs. Along with drugs and smoking, drinking alcohol is very addictive. Alcoholism is a disease and alters the lives of people affected by it.                                                                                                                                                                

            Negative peer pressure has one straight out, present, consequence. As a minor, smoking, drinking alcohol, doing drugs, cutting class, and having sex are all felonies. The teenager performing these acts can be in serious trouble, to the point where they can be arrested and put into juvenile hall.

In the End

            The negative affects of peer pressure can really impact a person's life for the worse.  Mayisha Ashan, 13, says "I don't give into certain types of peer pressure because I know that many things will ruin my life. Although I'll have a few moments of pleasure now, I'll be in trouble for the rest of my life." Most teenagers should have this perspective in their decision making.