A Closer Look: Why Teens Are Prone to Peer Pressure

by Colette Moran

As is evidenced by the positive effects that peer pressure can have, a new study suggests that teens are influenced by others not so much because they are less capable of making rational decisions, but because they crave social acceptance more than adults do.

Peer pressure is often seen as a negative, and indeed it can coax kids into unhealthy behavior like smoking or speeding. But it can also lead to engagement in more useful social behaviors. If peers value doing well in school or excelling at sports, for instance, it might encourage kids to study or train harder.

And both peer pressure and learning to resist it are important developmental steps to self-reliance, experts say.

The research also suggests that you should get to know your kids’ friends early – and cut your older teen some slack.

Peer influence during adolescence is normal and tends to peak around age 15, then decline. Teens get better at setting boundaries with peers by age 18 according to Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University.

And an earlier school of thought about teenage brains is being challenged.

In years past, people thought teens didn’t have fully developed frontal lobes, the part of the brain critical for decision-making and other more complex cognitive tasks. But a growing body of work seems to show that teens are able to make decisions as well as adults when they are not emotionally worked up. Instead, the key may be that the reward centers of the brain get more activated in adolescence, and seem to be activated by our peers.

The research has also found the key factors of resisting negative peer pressure: being popular, having a family with low dysfunction, and having good communication skills. 

Much more here.


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