As adolescents grow, they spend an increasing amount of time with friends and feel a growing need for recognition and acceptance. This combination makes them especially susceptible to the influence of kids in their social sphere.1 Peer pressure can be hard to resist because kids want to feel liked and accepted as part of the group, and they may worry about being teased or left out if they resist.
Peer pressure isn’t always dangerous and destructive.2 Relating to others is a vital part of growing up, and your mentee’s peers can offer friendship and acceptance, advice, encouragement, and opportunities to practice social skills. Peers can help one another to discover new interests and develop new skills.3
But as we all know, peer pressure can also be negative, encouraging risky behaviors such as skipping school, stealing, cheating, sexual activity, and drug and alcohol use.1 This kind of pressure can be extraordinarily hard to resist. Young people may be mocked, shunned, even physically assaulted. Popularity is precious, and kids will often do things for the sake of acceptance that they would not choose to do on their own.4 One study found that the mere presence of peers increases an adolescent’s willingness to engage in risky behavior.4 A teen who usually appears calm and mature may act completely different in a group.
You probably won’t know for sure that your young person has a problem with peer pressure unless he tells you. If you see a pattern of behavior problems, however, it’s pretty likely that social pressure is a factor. Your best asset in helping your young person resist peer pressure is the trusting relationship you have built with your mentee. If you can get him to open up to you about how other kids influence what he does and what he feels, you’ll be in a good position to help him understand how to make his own choices. A strong relationship with a caring adult can be most important in helping your mentee resist peer pressure.
For tips on how to help your mentee cope with peer pressure, see the resources listed below.
“Teens Who Feel More Peer Pressure Turn Out Better, Not Worse”
An excellent article that goes into depth about how peer pressure works. The young person’s relationship with parents and other adults turns out to be key to coping with peer pressure.
“How to Deal Effectively with Peer Pressure”
An excellent article that offers practical tactics for coping with peer pressure, aimed at adolescents. This could be a useful article to share with your mentee.
“What Can I Do if I Want to Say No to Peer Pressure?”
A useful article that describes some effective tactics young people can use when they’re feeling social pressure. Another good article to share.