What is Peer Pressure and Who is at Risk?

Have you ever done something you didn’t want to do in order to belong to a friend group or because you were worried about “looking cool?” These are classic results of peer pressure but don’t worry, you are not alone! Approximately 90 percent of teens reported having experienced peer pressure, which is commonly defined as any external force of influence on our decisions that might have an effect on our physical or mental health.

Peer pressure happens quite frequently– on social media, amongst our friend groups, at school, and sometimes even in our home. Peer pressure is often thought of as negative, due to influencing decision-making, but it can also be a positive thing. Positive peer pressure might look like encouraging friends to join a play, the pressure to do well on assignments, or influencing kids to try new foods at home. Unfortunately, peer pressure also has the ability to be negative if it restrains you from making a decision yourself or causes emotional or physical consequences.

Peer pressure can happen to anyone at any age, but it’s important to know why peer pressure might happen to better prepare you in setting boundaries. “Oftentimes peer pressure happens because we don’t want to be the only ones doing something,” says Karen Hasselman, School-Based Therapist at Centerstone. Some indicators that someone is being pressured might be an increase in nervousness, secretive behaviors, anxiety or depression, or behavior issues like skipping school.

“Children tend to give in to peer pressure for a couple of different reasons. One might be they don’t have a lot of relationships or friendships, and they fear the risk of losing them. Another might be that it is easier to go along with the crowd rather than going against it,” says Hasselman. When your experience with peer pressure becomes a threat to your health—physically and mentally, it is important to evaluate those relationships and involve a trusted individual (parent, teacher, and friend) who might be able to help you.

Here are some ways you can help combat peer pressure:

  • Have conversations. Parents should have conversations with their children about morals. It is important to teach them the differences between what is right and wrong, and the consequences that come with making wrong choices. Model healthy decision-making at home to make it easier for them to say no when they are faced with peer pressure.
  • Setting boundaries. “Setting boundaries can be tough, and it’s important to give children opportunities to practice with boundaries in their everyday environments,” says Hasselman. A combination of modeling healthy behaviors and boundaries will help children and teens to have those conversations with peers.
  • Think about it. Sometimes it is best to think about a decision before making it. Create a boundary that allows you to process your thoughts and feelings. Remember, you can always change your mind at another time, but the important thing is to make that decision yourself without influence.
  • Evaluate relationships. If your relationships or friendships result in questioning yourself, threats, or insults, then it might not be healthy. You can have conversations with those friends or partners, but consider if it is the best option for you.

Ultimately, you have the ability to discern when things are good or bad for you. Allow yourself the space to make decisions when you are comfortable and know that it is okay to set boundaries and say no.

If you or someone you know is struggling with setting boundaries, Centerstone can help. Call 1-877-HOPE123 (1-877-467-3123) for more information.


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