November 03, 2016

What is Peer Pressure and How Has it Changed?

Are you or someone you know experiencing Peer Pressure? What is Peer Pressure exactly? Learn about the different forms of peer pressure and how it has changed.

People of all ages experience peer pressure for one simple reason: because people of all ages have peers. It doesn't matter if you're a student, an employee, an employer, or a volunteer. It doesn't matter at what level you're at. Whether you're at high school, an undergraduate, postgraduate, an intern, or a senior executive—we all have peers. And, our mix of peers can be social, professional, or both! Having peers is good for us. They can help us grow, stay motivated, and be inspired, and we can do the same for them. Conversely, however, having peers sometimes means we experience peer pressure. Things we feel pressured into that we don't want to do or be involved with. Unlike any article you can find on the internet about peer pressure, in this article we're going to unpack exactly what is peer pressure and explore how it has changed.

Can I Help You?

Read on if you, or someone you know, is feeling pressured to drink, smoke, do drugs, or anything else that doesn't feel right. This article and the articles in this series are published for you. Many teens and young adults know what it feels like to experience peer pressure. It can be conflicting, confusing, and stressful, to say the least. If you're experiencing peer pressure, for whatever reason, know that you are not the only one. I've experienced it. I've seen my friends and family experience it. It happens to a lot of people. And, it can happen to anyone. Let's dive in.

Who Are Your Peers?

In an article reviewed by Psychologist D'Arcy Lyness, the Teens Health website from Nemours Children’s Health System defines peers as:
"Your peers are people your age or close to it who have experiences and interests similar to yours."
Most people agree, however, that peer pressure disproportionately affects young people at times in their lives when they are most vulnerable. While this is to be true, to an extent, there are several active ways to properly manage it. Only by properly identifying and understanding peer pressure as it evolves, can young people effectively deflect and deal with it.

What is Peer Pressure?

The online resource Safe Teens provides a simple, clear and straightforward definition of peer pressure. They state:
"Peer pressure is when your classmates, or other people your age, try to get you to do something."
Are there different forms of peer pressure? Absolutely. Safe Teens identifies several behaviors and techniques that teens commonly employ to place undue pressure on one another. The four of these are recognized as follows.


This is the most obvious connection between peer pressure and its ugly cousin "bullying". Insults, in its nastiest form, are astonishingly effective at tearing down our resistance. This type of pressure can make a person feel bad about not doing something that they shouldn’t until, eventually, they give in.


The threat of isolation and "not fitting in" is a strong motivating factor among most children, teens, and even adults. When faced with one or more friends who are threatening to cut off all ties, young people often resort to desperate measures.


Perhaps the most treacherous form of peer pressure, reasoning often gives the appearance of logic. When presented with a list of reasons (even terrible reasons) that never seems to end, young people tend to lose perspective, rationale, 'clear-headed thinking'and see a bad idea as a good one.


This form of peer pressure requires no active coercion whatsoever. It's about the silent pressures, such as interpretation (i.e. how we interpret a situation) and observation. For example, simply 'seeing' all your peers exhibit the same behavior can be a powerful motivator.

How Has Peer Pressure Changed?

In many ways yes. Understanding what is peer pressure hasn't changed. However, today’s peer pressure isn’t the same as peer pressure a generation ago. According to Parenting New Hampshire writer Rob Levey, peer pressure has changed dramatically since your parents were in school. Mr. Levey quotes Marci Blanchette, a spokesperson for the Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Program at Child and Family Services. Ms. Blanchette states; "The difference is, today we live in a world that gives us access to information in the blink of an eye." Primarily due to the advances in technology and the ways in which we access information. As a result, Blanchette goes on to explain that "we live in a culture where every second of our lives can be publicized." Sadly, at times, when our lives are publicized, we open ourselves up to being scrutinized, victimized, and pressurized.

Technology has Changed the Playing Field

This sentiment is echoed by Tracey Tucker, executive director of the New Heights program in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Tracey points out that today, "kids live in a world where communication can take place at any time through the Internet, Social Media and Facebook, cell phones, and other devices just hitting the market." Analyzing this situation in light of peer pressure, she said; "The problem is that these forms of technology change the playing field and broaden the ways kids can experience peer pressure. In a sense, they can’t get away from it."

Peer Pressure Happens at Very Young Ages

Peer pressure today is attacking young people at earlier and earlier ages through its proliferation of modern technology, modern. Award-winning health and parenting journalist Malia Jacobson tells the story of third-grader Emma Neher. Emma was reportedly pressured by fellow students to break the rules by using a mint breath spray on school grounds. Although this may seem like a fairly benign violation, her mother, "floored" at the situation, simply couldn’t believe that her child was facing such complex group dynamics and social coercion at such a young age.

See also: How to Deal with Peer Pressure Like a Seasoned Pro.

Is there a Way to Stop it?

Courage is staying true to yourself in the face of peer pressure.
Driven by technological advancements and changing societal norms, the unpleasant undercurrents and dangerous results of peer pressure are rapidly becoming more complex and more insidious. By learning, however, to identify it in all of its guises, build courage, and to chart its rapid evolution, you can learn to stop peer pressure in its tracks and avoid it's disagreeable, and sometimes tragic, repercussions!

To recap, we've talked here about who your peers are, what is peer pressure, and how it has changed. In the next article, we'll take you through the most common causes and effects of peer pressure. An area of peer pressure not widely discussed, yet an area people today must know about. We'll see you there.