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What is "peer pressure"?

Children And Peer Pressure

Charles Sophy (Private Practice in Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry) gives expert video advice on: Why does peer pressure happen?; How does peer pressure affect young children?; How does peer pressure affect adolescents and teens? and more...

What is "peer pressure"?

Peer pressure is the feeling that often your child will feel that they need to adhere to the group of friends that they have, so either they dress in certain manner or they hang out in a certain place or they buy a certain thing. And peer pressure can be significant, so it's important to identify for your child, to let them know the origins of it in an age-appropriate way. You should keep your eye on the peer pressure, and know that your child may at times need help with it, because they may not want to do what their peers are doing, and they'll need the coping skills, to be able to say no and still remain a part of that group.

Why does peer pressure happen?

Peer pressure happens as children become dis-separating and individuating again in their life. If you remember when your child was starting to walk at the age of one ,or one and a half or two. That's the first time that they're learning to separate from you. They're able to physically walk away and individuate and learn that they are an individual. The same process happens around at eight or nine again and then it happens again at 10 or 12. At different phases of their life it happens again. And so they start to separate and individuate as they become enhanced in they're group of , friends, their people. And as they get to that, there's certain pressures to fit into that group. That's what they do and that's the pressure that they feel, because it new to them. They're also leaving you, they're feeling that anxiety, the anxiety of joining a new group and what's it's going to cost them to join that group. So that pressure builds and they need to able to navigate through that and not necessarily cave into it. Often times children who don't have a good foundation will cave into that peer pressure and find themselves doing things that, they don't even know what they're doing.

How does peer pressure affect young children?

Peer pressure affects a young child, often, when another peer pressurise them into doing something that they wouldn't necessarily normally do. They see a child that is maybe more aggressive than them in a playgroup and this aggresive child grabs or hits. The non-aggressive child will start to follow this behaviour too but not really know why they're doing it. This may cause you to look at your child and think, “You've never done this before.” And that's how it affects a younger child. The solution really is reframing acceptable behaviour for your child, telling them, “You know we don't hit. You know when we're upset, this is how we handle it.” And really just reinforcing the tools that you taught them earlier on.

How does peer pressure affect adolescents and teens?

Peer pressure will affect an adolescent or a teen in a different way because the intensity of the pressure is more, obviously, and the need to separate from you, from their family is more, and age appropriate. And as they now find their people, they're finding that their people have deficits and differences just like their own family did. In their interpretation, they were leaving their family because their family is not the right people to be with and they're running to this group but when they run to that group, they find that everybody is human and everybody has deficits. It's dealing with that, and it's how much do you give in to the peer pressure to join this group, and sell of yourself, and how much do you preserve of yourself resisting the peer pressure. It's giving your child the ability to make that balance and that decision, based on the foundation that you've built for them.