Why Your Teen Needs Peer Pressure

Why Your Teen Needs Peer Pressure

Every parent worries about the effects of peer pressure on their teenager.  And there is good reason for them to be concerned.  Some peer pressure is welcomed, like friends urging your teen to go out for a sport, or to study with them.  Other peer pressure is unwelcome, like urging your teen to smoke of drink.

The interesting thing that researchers are finding out about peer pressure is that it is an important developmental step for teens that actually helps them in the journey of becoming an independent adult.  They are also finding that susceptibility to peer pressure of both kinds peaks around age 15, and that their brains derive more pleasure from social acceptance than adult brains do.  It’s just a part of growing up.

I’ve always wondered why they all look alike, act alike, and dress alike if they are trying to “find themselves.”  The adolescent crisis is all about how do I stay a part of my family, but at the same time be separate from my family.  No wonder they appear confused!

What makes the difference between the teen who gives in to negative peer pressure and those who don’t give in?  Kids who resist usually experience some degree of popularity with their friends, have families that are relatively healthy, and have good communication skills.

Those who don’t resist when they should seem to struggle with acceptance from other kids, have a lower sense of self-esteem, and have high social anxiety.  It’s that anxiety that seems to make the most difference.

What can a parent do?  For one thing, clearly defined boundaries are a big help for your teen.  Helping your teen practice resisting negative teen peer pressure by  strategizing what to do in different situations, and by talking about how to clearly communicate with other teens will help.  But at the same time, parents need to give their teen room to make his or her own decisions.  It works against successful navigation of the teen’s years if the parent is over-protective.  So it’s a delicate balance between talking about it and yet knowing when to stay “hands off”

Question:  How did you handle peer pressure when you were a teen?


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3 Responses to Why Your Teen Needs Peer Pressure

  1. Philip Smith says:

    My life mission is the application of positive peer pressure (we call it normative peer culture) as a tool to rehabilitate the “un-rehabilitable,” street tough teens who have been abandoned and rejected by their families and “adopted’ by negative peer groups (formal or informal gangs). Victims of sexual trafficking are also often considered to be very difficult to rehabilitate, but even with these we have had great success by creating an residential environment with a positive peer culture, restricting access to negative influences until the young person has had a chance to develop deep roots in Biblical principles, and is ready to withstand the temptations of worldly peers. The powerful transformational tool is not the adult professionals, but the large peer group itself. Not much is written about the unique power of this peer culture phenomenon, without which I believe many of our graduates would be dead today, and I was very interested in reading what you had to say on the subject. I believe that in many cases, without addressing the teen culture itself, the cause may be lost. So keep up the great message!

  2. Hi Dr. Stoop. I’m a former student of yours at Fuller Theological Seminary and knew your wife Jan through Pat Rexroat. My husband and I are Janet and Dave too. I’m now a Christian author and speaker and also a Mentor Mom for http://www.themominitiative. I would love to share this blog on the M.O.M. Initiative blog with your permission and giving you full credit. Would that be alright with you?
    It’s nice to stay in touch through your blog posts.
    About His Work,
    Janet Thompson

  3. Dr. Stoop,
    Thanks for letting Janet share your wise words over at THE MOM Initiative. I am a huge fan of yours and recommend your material to the parents who attend my parenting workshops and classes (see http://www.loriwildenberg.com or http://www.1Corinthians13Parenting.com ) I like your perspective on peer pressure. When my 4 kids (now young adults) went through the teens each one was so different. It is always the proverbial tug of war- when to let go and when to hang on. Thanks for your blog. I will be recommending your site as well. And thanks to Janet Thompson (fellow MOM mentor) for pointing this out! ~Lori

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