Doing Life Together

family teensPeer pressure sounds like a negative thing because we usually think of it as something to resist. But the teenage brain loves social acceptance more than the adult brain.

In fact, teens get great pleasure from being liked by other people. This yearning for peer acceptance peaks around age 15 and then begins to decline.

So can peer pressure be a good thing?

Yes, the influence of friends is important to development. When peer pressure is positive like getting good grades, competing in sports, trying new opportunities, etc., it can encourage teens to try harder or be more excellent in what they do. It prompts teens to take risks, to seek novelty and explore their environment, all steps important to individual development.

However, when it comes to decision making, more development is necessary.  Brain research tells us that teens are just as adept as making decisions as adults when they aren’t emotionally wound up. Emotionally wound up is the key phrase here. Brain connections are still forming and emotions get in the way of good decision making until a bit later in development. This is why you see teens making poor decisions with their peers. If peer pressure goes a negative direction, then the decision-making follows that path because of the need to fit in or be liked. But not always.

There are a few factors that help teens resist negative peer pressure:

1) Being popular

2) Having families with little dysfunction

3) Having good, strong communication skills

4) Having a high need for uniqueness

5) Having parents who enforce strict boundaries

6) Having parents who help prepare teens for peer pressure situations with rehearsal or role-playing

7) Having good friends

8) Excelling in something

Parents, bottom line, get your kids involved in positive activities with kids who are motivated. This will go along way to prevent negative peer pressure. Since the teen brain wants peer acceptance, put them around positive peers.

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