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Adolescent Peer Pressure

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Adolescent Peer Pressure

Between the ages of twelve and nineteen is a period in a teenager's life that determines what kind of adult he or she will become. This period of adolescence, also known as the "formative years", is the subject of much study and research to determine why adolescents are vulnerable to the phenomenon called peer pressure. The disturbing number of incidents of teenage drug use, teenage pregnancy and teenage suicide is most assuredly the reason that fuels the need for such research. Perhaps it is because as children they are taught the importance of having and maintaining friends. Or perhaps they don't feel that they can talk to their parents or teachers when problems arise. Or maybe they simply want to rebel against the pressures placed on them as youths. Because adolescents spend their time either at home or in school, it is within these confines that the answers to adolescents' behavior lay. In other words, family and school can sometimes cause adolescents to give in to peer pressure because of an overemphasis on the importance of social adjustment, a lack of interest or communication on the part of the parents and teachers, and the unrealistic expectations that these entities create.

Although the purpose of attending school is to receive an education, it also provides children with a medium through which they can develop relationships with other children that eventually turn into friendships. The ability to form friendships can be traced back to even the pre-school years and its importance from this time forward is emphasized by eager parents who want their children to fit in at school. "Interactions with friends or other peers are crucial for the development of a mature morality." (Juvonen, p.11) Most would agree that social interaction is important but sometimes parents are guilty of over-emphasizing this importance. Let's recall the numerous birthday parties where every child in the neighborhood was invited to come regardless of whether or not they were actual friends. This desire to socialize children also occurs in the classroom at school. "The classroom setting represents not only an educational arena but a powerful social context in which the psychological adjustment of children and adolescents can be affected."(Juvonen, p.248) Teachers tend to promote social interaction by assigning exercises that require working in pairs or groups. Furthermore, when a teacher spots a child playing alone, they will encourage him or her to join the other children while overlooking the possibility that the child might have preferred to be alone. Thus, from an early age, children are taught to value the importance of social interaction and this value stays with them as they move into the adolescent years. The result is that adolescents come to value their friendships deeply and in some cases more so than their relationships with family members. This accounts for the adolescent not being able to refuse their friends for fear of losing the bonds that they have formed and is thus a cause of their greater vulnerability to peer pressure.

A second cause that contributes to the vulnerability of adolescents in the face of peer pressure is the lack of interest or communication on the part of the parents and teachers. "Under ordinary circumstances, parents and children rarely do things together, except at meal times. Ever since work and school have pulled adults and children away from the home, conflicting schedules keep family members circling around each other in eccentric orbits."(Csikszentmihalyi, p.145) If the parents are not around or simply do not show interest in their children's affairs, then it should not be surprising that adolescents will be more influenced by their peers with whom they spend the majority of their time. "In terms of sheer amount of time, peers are by far the greatest presence in the adolescent's life."(Czikszentmihalyi, p.71) Since the adolescent also spends a good deal of time at school, it would seem that the teacher would serve as a sort of parent model in the classroom to whom students could come for guidance. However, not so much a lack of interest but rather a lack of communication exists in this setting as well, due to the ratio of students to teacher in the classroom. This inhibits the possibility of the teacher having a true personal relationship with each student. Of course, this is a situation not easily remedied but nonetheless it is still a factor in an adolescent's tendency to turn to their friends as role models. If there are no adults available to provide negative feedback, then once again it is not surprising that they give in to the pressures placed on them by their peers.

"Adolescence is a period of biological growth and maturation, self discovery and social adaptation."(Vega, p.4) By this definition it can be seen that the adolescent world is significantly different from the adult world. This point of view renders the expectations placed on adolescents by family and school unrealistic and therefore causes of rebellion and conformity to peer pressure. In the home environment, relations between parents and adolescents tend to be strained because each has different goals that come into conflict. "There is inevitable conflict between adult realism and youthful idealism within the family."(Csikszentmihalyi, p.131) Parents expect their children to see things the same way they do, overlooking the fact



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