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Peer Pressure: Seeking Support or Just Going along with the Crowd

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Peer pressure is usually thought of as a force that groups apply to the teenagers in an effort to persuade them to try something that they may be adverse to, which is socially taboo or act in a deviant manner. For the teenager, the stakes are high, as it could mean group acceptance or group rejection. Within the group, a failure to succumb to peer pressure may result in group sanctions against the individual. Peer pressure can have dangerous outcomes as adolescents experiment with drugs, become sexually active, or act out violently in an effort to create an identity of power.

The negative results of peer pressure can be quantified in terms of truancy, delinquency, contact with law enforcement, and eventual incarceration. Indeed, there is an explosion of youth deviance, sexual activity, and violence that affects us all. The results of peer pressure may be overt, but the causes are often more subtle and elusive. Understanding peer pressure is a critical factor in understanding the teenage years and mediating the potential bad decisions that are made by teenagers as they surrender their judgement to a groups expectations and norms.

Peer pressure is a destructive force that has proliferated in the face of impersonal social institutions, diminished life choices, and families that fail to offer their children the emotional support necessary to develop a well-rounded sense of self-esteem and personal identity. The issue of peer pressure has gained increasing importance in recent years due to the proliferation of pop culture media, social networking, the availability of drugs, and the easy access to guns in our society. This paper will use a review of the existing literature to determine the underlying vulnerabilities to peer pressure and highlight the ways in which its social impact can be minimized.

The representation of teenage socialization in the mass media often highlights the influence that peers have to corrupt teenage values, which "leads to deviant behaviors such as smoking, drinking, drug use, dangerous driving, violence, provocative dress, and sexual promiscuity" (Schwind, 2008, p. 1015). These social forces conspire to motivate teenagers to make decisions that they would otherwise reject if they based their behavior solely on family socialization, community values, and accepted social norms.

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