Adult Peer Pressure

Instructor: Gaines Arnold

Gaines has a Master of Science in Education.

This lesson looks at whether adult peer pressure is real and, if it is, how it occurs. A definition of peer pressure is given, examples of types that adults may face are provided and means of fighting peer pressure are explained.

An Example of Adult Peer Pressure

Finally landing the job of her dreams, Helen was excited to go to work each day. At least that was the case for the first few months. She liked her coworkers and her direct supervisor was more a mentor than a boss. However, after a few months she noticed some accounting discrepancies. She told one of her coworkers who looked at the accounts in question and was told not to worry about those anymore. Someone else was supposed to deal with those. But it happened again. It was then that her coworker told her that sometimes wealthier employees were charged extra fees and that the company shared this money among the other employees as a bonus She was directed not to talk about it and she could benefit also. Another employee came to her later and told her that people who understood the way things were done would be fine. Those who tried to report problems would lose their jobs.

Does Peer Pressure Continue into Adulthood?

Although some may believe that peer pressure ends when a person becomes an adult; that is, unfortunately, not the case. Adults are just as subject to peer pressure as children and youth. Peer pressure is when an individual or group of people attempts to cause another person to conform to some type of uniform code. This can happen when an individual is asked to do a normal work procedure that may be unethical, like in the example above, or decides to quit smoking because pressure from friends or family to quit. In other words, peer pressure can have both negative and positive consequences.

How Does Peer Pressure Generally Affect Adults?

No matter who you are, everyone wants to feel that they belong. This means that people are influenced by family, friends, coworkers, other members in organizations to which they belong (such as a church or step-group), social media contacts and other forms of media. Peer pressure is very strong. It is one of the most powerful tools that advertisers have in their arsenal.

All of these pressure-filled avenues use different means of influence. Advertisements and TV programs promote an idea of what it means to be 'normal,' telling people how they should look, what they should drive, and what they should put in and on their bodies. Family members pressure you about relationships, such as dating partners, friends and other acquaintances. Coworkers set the norms in the office. Every aspect of life can be controlled by some sort of peer pressure.

What Does the Research Say?

There have been many different studies that have in one way or another attempted to discover the power people have over each other. In the Third Wave Experiment, a history teacher was able to demonstrate the power of peer pressure to his high school class. The teacher used the subtle pressure of other students and suggestion to make the classroom more regimented, totalitarian and oriented on the basis of strength. After four days, the students were willing to join a nationwide movement of the teacher's creation that was fascist and totalitarian in nature.

In another example, the Milgram experiment attempted to determine how much supposed pain people would inflict on one another. An actor was placed in a room with fake electrodes attached to him or her. The subject of the experiment could observe the actor through one-way glass. The subject was instructed to shock the person in the booth whenever he or she answered a question wrong. The subject was coached by another person, who was a member of the research team, wearing a lab coat. The coach instructed the subject when to administer the shock. Shocks of increasing voltage were administered and the actor in the booth demonstrated an increasing amount of agitation as new shocks were supposedly administered. The researchers found that when told to administer shocks, some participants were willing to administer jolts that would have been fatal if truly administered. The study was discontinued when the subjects were seen to have adverse psychological problems following their participation.

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