All of us are born with the basic desire to be accepted by our peers. Nobody wants to be disliked, rejected. Thus, to varying degrees, our peers influence us.
A peer is defined as:
one that is of equal standing with another; . . . one belonging to the same societal group, esp[ecially] based on age, grade, or status.”
Peer pressure, in turn, is the force exerted on us by our peers, so that, consciously or unconsciously, we conform to their way of thinking or acting.
Peer pressure is usually seen in a negative light. Yet, as we shall see, we can turn it to our advantage.
Influence on all age groups
Peer pressure is not limited to the young; it affects all age groups. Its influence is manifest when we find ourselves asking such questions as:
Others are doing it, why can’t I?” “Why do I always have to be different?” “What will others think or say?” “All my friends are dating and getting married, but I’m not. Is something wrong with me?”
While the pressure to conform affects all age groups, it tends to be more intense during adolescence
Most adolescents become deeply involved with their peer group—that is, their circle of friends and acquaintances.
These teen-agers look to their peer group, rather than to their parents, for approval, and they may change their behavior to win that approval.
Teenagers, assume they are developing normally if their peers accept and like them.
To that end they become absorbed in matters they think affect their popularity, such as their style of dress, leadership ability, and success in dating.
Married couples may find that their decisions about what kind of home to buy or rent, what kind of car to drive, whether to have children or not, and many other matters are influenced by peer pressure—what is acceptable in their community, among their associates or ethnic group.
Some families even go deep in debt just to keep up materially with neighbors and peers. Yes, our goals, our thinking, and our decisions often betray the subtle power of peer pressure.
In view of its power, can we deal with peer pressure in an advantageous way, to help us along in the direction we want to go? Indeed, we can!
Doctors and other health professionals know the value of surrounding their patients with positive people and other healthful influences.
Such an environment can be a stimulus to recovery.
People who have lost a limb, for example, are often helped through the long process of physical rehabilitation and emotional recovery by the good example and encouragement of others who have suffered similarly.
Clearly, immersing oneself in a wholesome environment that includes optimistic, positive role models is a way of tapping into the right kind of peer pressure.