Peer Pressure & Bullying

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

Peer pressure can be a powerful force on the decisions we make. This lesson will review the relationship between peer pressure and bullying, and discuss some strategies available to resist peer pressure.

Peer Pressure

Sam is hanging out in a large group with what he considers to be the cool kids in school. Suddenly someone in the group starts making fun of Sam's friend Eric who has a physical disability that causes him to walk with a limp.

They start to mimic Eric and act like they're limping around, calling him 'lame cripple' and other mean words. Although Sam disapproves of their behavior, he doesn't want to risk being left out of the group so he joins the group in their ridicule of Eric.

Peer pressure consists of the influence that is placed onto us by others in our social group. It can take many different forms and can lead to us engaging in behaviors that we normally wouldn't consider, such as Sam joining in and making fun of his friend Eric.

Peer pressure is not always bad however. Positive peer pressure can lead us to make good decisions such as studying harder, staying in school, or looking for a better job. When we are led to make poor decisions due to the influence of others, such as smoking, using illicit drugs, or bullying like Sam, we are giving in to negative peer pressure. We all have the desire to be part of a group and fit in, so finding ways to resist peer pressure when necessary can be helpful.


The behavior Sam and his friends are engaging in while making fun of Eric is bullying, the ongoing, unwanted, aggressive behavior directed toward another person. It is most common among school-aged children but can occur to adults as well. Bullying can take many forms such as:

  • Verbal bullying - shouting insults at someone such as calling them names, threatening them, or taunting them.
  • Physical bullying - hitting, spitting, tripping, or pushing someone.
  • Social bullying - leaving someone out of activities, spreading rumors, or embarrassing someone on purpose.
  • Cyberbullying - using the internet to verbally or socially bully someone such as through social media sites.

Peer Pressure and Bullying

Peer pressure has a powerful influence on whether or not someone chooses to engage in bullying behavior. In Sam's case, although Eric is Sam's friend, and Sam wouldn't normally consider making fun of his disability, his need to belong to a group is stronger than his willingness to stand up for his friend.

Research seems to indicate that the influence of peer pressure on bullying is strongest during the middle school years. More than 3.2 million school-aged children are bullied each year, and bullying leads to over 160,000 children missing school. Sadly half of all teenage suicides can also be attributed to bullying, with an average of 4,400 deaths reported on an annual basis.

During adolescence, peers provide us with strong social support as we seek to become more independent. It is easy to give into peer pressure and engage in bullying simply because of the desire to fit in. For this reason, adolescents who belong to peer groups that engage in bullying are more likely to become bullies themselves.

Resisting Peer Pressure Bullying

There are several strategies to resist peer pressure bullying that can be used to avoid became entangled in a situation like Sam's. Some of these include:

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