Your peers are the people with whom you identify and spend time. In children and teens, they are usually, but not always, of the same age group. In adults, peers may be determined less by age and more by shared interests or professions. Peer pressure occurs when an individual experiences implied or expressed persuasion to adopt similar values, beliefs, and goals, or to participate in the same activities as those in the peer group. No one is immune from peer pressure.
The level of peer influence generally increases as children grow, and resistance to peer influence often declines as children gain independence from the family or caregivers, and before they fully form an adult identity. Pre-schoolchildren tend to be the least aware of peer pressure, and are the least influenced by the need to conform. However with more social interactions outside the home and more awareness of others, the influence of peers increases.
Pre-teens and teenagers face many issues related to conformity and peer pressure. They are pulled between the desire to be seen as individuals of unique value and the desire to belong to a group where they feel secure and accepted. The result is that often teens reject family or general society values, while feeling pressure to conform rigidly to the values of their peer group. An example of this phenomenon is seen when young people join gangs. In joining the gang they are rejecting the community's way of dressing and behaving. Yet to belong to the gang, they must conform to the gang's own style of dress, behavior, and speech.
Peer pressure by itself is neither positive nor negative. Several studies confirm research findings that the values of the peer group with whom the high school student spends the most time are a stronger factor in the student's level of academic success than the values, attitudes, and support provided by the family. Compared to others who started high school with the same grades, students whose families were not especially...