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Peer Pressure

Published : June 08, 2015

In today’s society, how are we ideally expected to appear, think and behave? Why are particular facets within our culture considered acceptable and others unacceptable?

by : Stacey McLean and Jacinta Marchesani - past Flourish work experience school students


Our individual perceptions of what is and isn’t collectively idyllic in our present community, are constantly influenced by the vast variety of outside pressures we all frequently must face.

These may well include such pressures from the media, our families, orour careers; which in effect have proven to be unavoidable, with even the smallest of details affecting our everyday approach to life. One clearly dominant form of persuasion which commonly affects all ages; is peer pressure. With this issue becoming an increasing topic of concern today, we thought it appropriate to bring to the attention of Flourish readers the harsh reality of peer pressure and how to cope with it.

The term ‘Peer Pressure’ refers to the social persuasion from one’s peers to adopt a manner alike or suitable to them. It is inevitable that those who we surround ourselves with, or rather our peers, will have a subconscious influence on our behavioural patterns and our viewpoints. However, peer pressure is an entirely separate matter. It is a form of manipulation which causes people to compromise their personal attitudes and values, in order to conform to common social expectations. Often when faced with peer pressure, our personal ethics, common sense and judgment are challenged, resulting in an unwilling change of character.

It may influence our fashion choices, alcohol consumption, drug use or academic achievement.

Reasons for succumbing to such pressures generally vary depending on the individual; including efforts to feel included in current trends, for curiosity or to avoid further anguish. Contradictory to the perception that this issue relates solely to those in their adolescence, peer pressure proves to be an extremely varied matter, affecting all age groups and in addition, both sexes.

Michaela* 36, finds herself continually faced with the pressures of “keeping up with the Jones’s”. Coming from a small community where everybody’s private business is regularly publicised, Michaela states that it almost feels like a necessity to be highly regarded as prosperous and rich in material possessions in order to escape public scrutiny. “Those in the community who have flash cars, nice homes, who dress well and in general appear to be able to financially accommodate a high standard of living, seem to be more socially accepted in comparison to those who appear to be perhaps less wealthy. Even though nothing is directly said in regards to such pressures, there’s that unspoken expectation that the wealthier you are the more socially superior you’ll be.”

Tara* 15, was recently approached by a close male friend in need of guidance, with a peer pressure dilemma of his own. “My friend came to me one night, distressed because he sensed that his girlfriend (also a close friend of Tara) wanted to have sex with him. He told me that although she had not yet approached him with the idea, he simply was not ready to have a sexual relationship at 16 and wasn’t sure how to handle the situation when it did arise. Initially I was quite shocked by the fact that he had came to me for my opinion, however, I left him with the advice that he should stand by his beliefs and if she disagreed, then she obviously wasn’t worth his time.”

These accounts are clear examples of the diversity of audiences and situations affected by peer pressure. However, these are merely two of the countless cases of peer pressure we face in our society today. The following is a guide which may prove to be of assistance when dealing with the issue of peer pressure.

As mentioned previously, peer pressure is simply unavoidable. Nevertheless, when you find yourself faced with this issue, there are certainly ways to rise above it.

  • Take time to develop your own ethics and standards based on your personal opinion of what is right and wrong.
  • Respect yourself by standing up for what you believe and not compromising yourself for others. If you feel you are being pressured to compromise those beliefs, clearly state and stand by your views on the situation.
  • Respect the beliefs and choices of others, even if you personally disagree. This means not conforming to their expectations, yet not attempting to vary their point of view. This action will aid to prevent any further harassment.

Surround yourself with those who support you for who you are.

Watching your child struggle with peer pressure can be extremely difficult. As an outsider to the situation, you may often feel distant and as though you are unable to help. However, there are various ways which you as their parent or carer, can assist them to overcome the difficulties of peer pressures.

Ensure that you lead by example. You as their parent have the greatest influence on your child’s character development.

Encourage your children to generate their own morals and values, emphasising the importance of staying true to themselves and their personal beliefs.

Create a close relationship with your child, allowing them to comfortably communicate with you on all levels. If your child feels they are able to discuss what they are experiencing with you, then they are more likely to respect the advice or opinions you have in regards to their situation.

Make yourself familiar with the complete situation. You will be able to provide your child with more assistance if you are totally aware of what is occurring.

Encourage your child to make their own decisions based on what they believe is morally correct, not on what others may perceive as acceptable.

Remember... Always stay true to yourself. Being your own person is sometimes the loneliest place you can ever be, but in the long run it’s the most rewarding.

We hope that this article has shed some light on peer pressure. If you wish to learn more about this topic, this website is a good place to start.

* Names have been changed for privacy.

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