Managing negative peer-pressure

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Peer-group is a term used to describe a group of people, who are of equal standing. For example, five people who belong to the same class, school, office or club are members of the same peer-group . A peer is a member of a peer group. Peer-pressure is the influence that one or more peers have on another peer, regardless of his/her feelings.

There are three ways a person can be influenced by his/her peers. Interpersonal influence may come in the form of being urged on to do what a particular peer group perceives to be normal or ‘cool’. For example, being goaded to watch soccer leagues, study your books, or engage in underage drinking is an example of this type of influence. If you associate with people who are well-behaved, you may be urged on to take part in productive and self-improving activities. On the contrary, if you associate with people who are not of exemplary character, they may urge you on to take part in some immoral and self-destructive activities.

Interpersonal influence may come in the form of an implied expectation from your peer-group. In this case, you are not being prodded or goaded to behave in a particular way. From the way the members of your peer-group interact and live, you have a sense of what is considered acceptable and unacceptable.

For example, a teenage boy who attends a particular secondary school may not be urged on to drink alcohol by his classmates. However, he may think that it is expected of him to engage in underage drinking because of what seems a common practice amongst his peers. He may feel that there’s a need to conform, even though he has not been asked to conform.

Interpersonal influence may also come in the form of what is known as subliminal influence. Subliminal influence is influence below the threshold of your conscious perception (influence that you are not conscious of).

According to Role theory, we play different roles within different groups. And every group has its norm. For example, your role as a father differs from your role as a business administrator, which also differs from your role as a student in the university. Therefore, a person may belong to many peer groups and perform different functions within them.

Randy is a father, who is in the same peer group as other fathers. He is also a business administrator in the same peer group as other business administrators, and so on. When at home, he performs his role as a father, and when at the office, he performs his role as a business administrator. 

Every peer-group has a conscious and subliminal effect on a person. Some of the ways peer-groups impact us are through the colouring of our perspectives, self-beliefs, behaviours, mental attitude, industry, and social skills.

Peer-pressure is not always negative. Associating with well-behaved and responsible people could bring about positive peer-influence, which thus improves your life. Associating with people who inspire academic competitiveness, show positive values, and are driven towards the accomplishment of positive goals will directly and subtly affect your mental attitude, like the flow of electricity from one iron to another.

We experience peer influence each time we associate with other people, because it is the glue that keeps people together. But not all kinds of peer influence are good. Peer-influence affects everyone; but it affects everyone in various ways- some people are more affected by it.

Ordinarily, people who yield to negative peer-influence are people who lack​

  • Concrete knowledge about the matters of life
  • The courage to resist peer-pressure.

 Let’s consider a case whereby Andrew, a teenager, is being pressured by some of the students in his class to try out narcotics (drugs). If Andrew has no concrete knowledge about the dangers of drug-abuse and is dismissive of the dire consequences associated with yielding to negative peer-pressure, he may acquiesce to the pressure of his peers; especially if he is made to believe that it is perfectly normal and cool to do so. 

Now, what if Andrew actually knows the danger of using narcotics, and is aware of the catastrophic effects of negative peer pressure, but still gives in to the pressure? Such must have resulted from the fact that he lacked the courage to resist the pressure. He yielded because he couldn’t deal with being shamed, ridiculed, rejected, physically attacked, taunted, ostracised, or mocked. He probably wanted to fit in with the other kids; he didn’t want to be considered a weirdo. And as being treated in undesirable ways can be tough for anyone, and particularly much tougher for teenagers, many people often yield to negative peer pressure.    

If you want to experience enviable progress and excellence in your life, not conceding to peer-pressure is imperative. Cultivate the habit of having a positive goal in sight, and then strive towards accomplishing that goal. More so, give yourself enough education regarding the common issues of life (Parents need to educate their children, and teachers need to educate their students about these issues). And of course, you need to grow a thick skin, i.e. you should be able to face, with fortitude, the unpleasant ways other people may treat you for being different. 

Direct your time, energy, and resources towards the achievement of that magnificent goal you have in sight. Managing peer pressure is never so easy, but very necessary, as it saves you from lots of disaster. Alcoholism, drug-abuse, academic indolence, examination malpractice, financial mismanagement, licentiousness, and rudeness may seem cool at the time, but will always give rise to negative consequences you never wished for. 

Prospect is often what separates the prudent man from the foolish man. A prudent man, while he may not necessarily seem like a wealthy, attractive chap in the present, has the power to and often wows us with their future accomplishments. While the cool, misguided kids who ridicules and taunts other kids today for not conforming to some negative behaviour, may pay the price later on in life.

He, however, who has been able to stay committed to his meaningful endeavours, regardless of the immensity of the negative pressures he constantly faced by his peers shall have a highly rewarding future.