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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 to be accepted. Everyone, during a period of their life, experiences peer pressure. 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 do. Indirect peer pressure is not necessarily verbal peer pressure but optical peer pressure. When a teenager is hanging out with a group of friends who smoke or do drugs they may think this negative behavior it is acceptable. Individual peer pressure is trying too hard to fit in and doing things because other people are doing them. Even though peer pressure has positive effects on teens, by helping them do well in school, eating healthy, exercising, joining after-school programs, it has more negative effects on teens as it influences teens to start taking drugs, smoking, shoplifting, cutting class, having sex, drinking alcohol, physical violence, and doing badly in school.
Teenage years is that phase of life when you are exposed to the world outside. These are the years when you spend most of your time with your friends. Teenage is the phase of beginning to become independent in life; the years of forming your ideals and principles, the years that shape your personality and the years that introduce you to your own self. Adolescents often spend most of their daily time with friends and owing to this vulnerable age, they tend to imitate their friends. This is because “…during adolescence, parents and adolescents become more physically and psychologically distant from each other” (Lingren 198) which is why teens spend more and more time with their peers.
As a result teens start to feel “ more closer to friends than parents” this is why majority of teenagers base their decisions on their friends actions. Because of this, they follow their peers and do things that they may not be comfortable doing. For instance, when a teenager is part of a group of friends that tend to smoke cigarettes. The teenager will most likely start to smoke when they get offered because these friends tend to encourage them until they feel extremely pressured to smoke. 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 have an extremely hard time to stop the addiction to drugs that’s ruining their life. Along with drugs and smoking, drinking alcohol is very addictive. Alcoholism is a disease and alters the lives of people affected by it. This negative peer pressure has one straight out, present, consequence that affects those that surround them. 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.
It’s natural for teenagers to want to become independent and have their own identity. Teenagers distance themselves from their family, and so they copy behavior and attitudes from their friends. This gives them peer approval, but it also enables teens to have their own identity outside the family. So, if a teen’s friends are gang members, it is likely the teenager will also want to join the gang, when their parents are “conflictual, distant or unavailable.” As a matter of fact, “…in 10 to 20 percent of families, parents and adolescents are in distressed relationships…” which is characterized by frequent outburst of anger. For this reason “youth gangs…are becoming a recognizable peer group” (Lingren 199) as teenagers feel accepted by their friends once they join gangs.
Not to mention many teens feel a sense of belonging and community in a gang, and being a gang member can make teens feel popular, with a chance to have some fun. Gangs seem attractive to teens because the gangs seem cool and popular, and they give teens an opportunity to attend parties and socialize. Vulnerable teenagers may join gangs to boost their self-esteem because being a gang member can give them feelings of power and influence. There are a number of factors that give teens low self-esteem, like doing badly at school or breaking up with a boy- or girlfriend, as potential reasons why a teen might be drawn to gangs. Last but not last, teenagers may join a gang out of fear for their own safety from other teenagers and gangs. Teenagers from dysfunctional or abusive homes or those who experience a lack of parental support, are attracted to the safety and support of gangs. Thus, peer pressure has a negative influence in teenagers as it results in them joining gangs which can only lead them to get more in trouble.
As shown above peer pressure negatively impacts teenragers as it influences them to do things that they normally wouldn’t do just to fit in and feel accepted, so they don’t feel awkward or uncomfortable. Responding to peer pressure is part of human nature — but some people are more likely to give in, and others are better able to resist and stand their ground. People who are low on confidence and those who tend to follow and not lead, could be more likely to seek their peers’ approval by giving in to a risky challenge or suggestion. Teenagers that resist peer pressure often began 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, which often results in suicide.
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