Peer Pressure: Causes & Effects

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  • 0:04 What Is Peer Pressure?
  • 1:13 Causes of Peer Pressure
  • 2:49 Consequences of Peer Pressure
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emily Cummins
In this lesson, we'll talk about what peer pressure is, some of the causes of peer pressure, and what happens when our friends or peers influence our behavior.

What Is Peer Pressure?

Tyler generally doesn't drink alcohol, and he's never used drugs. Recently, he started hanging out with a different group of friends who do use drugs and alcohol. Tyler resists joining his new friends in these activities at first, but they are constantly telling him to lighten up and join in on the fun. Eventually, Tyler gives in and joins his friends in using alcohol.

This scenario above is an example of what we call peer pressure, which happens when friends or peers influence our behavior. It often involves us doing something that we normally wouldn't do or that we might not want to do. We might cave to peer pressure because we don't want to be left out of something that all of our friends or peers are doing. Or, we might be worried about what others think about us.

Peer pressure can cause us to make certain choices about whether to drink alcohol or use drugs, what to wear, who to be friends with, or whether or not to skip school, for example. Peer pressure can also impact our decision to engage in sexual behaviors. Sometimes, young people might be pressured into physical activity they aren't ready for. Let's talk about some causes and consequences of peer pressure.

Causes of Peer Pressure

First, normative influence can make us do things that we might not normally. This is a lot like what caused Tyler to start drinking with his friends. It's pressure that encourages us to try and fit in with our peers or our group of friends. Informational influence is a little bit different. This kind of pressure influences our opinions or preferences so that we're more in line with the preferences of people we're spending time with.

So, for example, if you're hanging out with a group of friends, and they only listen to rock and roll music and think it's the best kind of music, this information might influence you to also prefer this music.

Influence might also take the form of facilitative influence , which might encourage us to engage in certain behaviors because the people we're with make it easy for us to have access. For example, Tyler's friends have access to a lot of beer, which makes it easier for Tyler to engage in this behavior.

So, why is it that people can be influenced by others? Well, some psychologists think that it's because as humans, we're really attuned to what other people think about us. We really want to be accepted by others.

It's possible that people who are experiencing problems at home might be more susceptible to peer pressure. If you come from a family with very little structure or discipline, it might be easier to succumb to pressures from our friends. Most often, succumbing to peer pressure is simply the result of wanting to be liked and fit in. And, you don't necessarily have to be a teenager to experience peer pressure; adults and children can also experience peer pressure.

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