Peer Pressure
By Pauline El Kallassi Mansour | 26 Jul 2013 | ADOLESCENT ISSUES
Adolescence is a period of self-exploration and identity development. It is a phase of experimentation and rehearsal of different roles. Adolescents search to understand who they are and what they want to be. Many questions and thoughts come to their minds such as: “Who am I? Am I loved?” “Where can I find my place in this world?” “I need to prove myself and become independent.”

As adolescents try to find answers to their questions, anxiety builds inside of them. They experience a need ‘to fit in’ in order to ease the turmoil going inside. They spend more time with their peers and friends who are going through the same phase; thus their companionship helps decrease the anxiety.

Need to belong to a group: Belongingness

During adolescence, adolescents’ need to belong to a group increases. Every person needs another person in order to understand who he is. A peer group helps adolescents define their identity and gives them a sense of belongingness and security. 

Peer pressure and friends’ influence can be either negative or positive. It depends on the type of peer group the adolescents choose.  Healthy peer groups encourage teens to assume responsibilities and engage in positive behaviors such as reading books, joining a basketball team or a health club etc…

It is important for parents to be aware of their adolescent’s peer group. Healthy peer groups can include: scouts, school club, drama club, dance club, Red Cross, an NGO or a charity organization and others etc…

Some adolescents do not find any group that meets their needs; and thus they isolate themselves. Their inability to belong to a group and establish an identity can lead to depression and make them feel irritable, alienated and hostile. They may deal with their negative feelings by resorting to groups that are dysfunctional or groups that encourage self-destructive behaviors such as substance use.

Alienated teens who feel hopeless and depressed might resort to such unhealthy peer groups that allow them to experience their extreme negative emotions. They might belong to a group out of fear of being ridiculed, rejected or bullied. Some join a group out of curiosity to try new things. 

All in all, adolescents join peer groups in order to feel accepted and fit it.

Parents play an important role in influencing their adolescents’ choices of peer groups and identity development.  Whether their adolescent chooses a healthy or unhealthy peer group depends on the teen’s need of acceptance and level of unconditional love and fun he has experienced at home.

If your adolescent has not felt accepted and loved unconditionally at home, he may question family’s values and standards. He may fulfill his needs in dysfunctional peer groups that promote unhealthy coping of negative feelings. 

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