By: Aisha El Shamy
Adolescence is the period of developmental transition between childhood and adulthood. It involves changes in personality, as well as in physical, intellectual and social development. Peers play a large role in the intellectual and social development of adolescents. It is natural and healthy for young adults to have and rely on their friends as they mature.
Peers help each other develop new skills and stimulate interests, this is when the ‘curiosity’ stage starts to develop. At the curiosity stage, a hunger to explore and try new things starts to develop. Peers start to ask questions to others and listen to their own experiences. During those kind of conversations the excitement of knowing and learning is present to you. Adolescents start to hear ‘it’s fun’ ‘you should try it yourself’, this is where ‘peer pressure’ or ‘peer influence’ takes place.
Peer pressure influences adolescents to do things they don’t usually do. Peer pressure and curiosity always come together. Negative peer pressure prompts adolescents to try smoking, drinking, using drugs, or other risky behaviours. Peers tend to agree to try these odd behaviours seeking conformity. They tend to worry a lot about their social position, and concerned about how others perceive them. Therefore they expose to intense peer pressure. They are willing to do anything, even self-destructive things, in order to be accepted.
Adolescents should give theirselves permission to avoid people or situations that are uncommon and uncomfortable, and work on setting boundaries and learn how to say ‘NO’ when they don’t want to do something they’re uncomfortable with. They should also know that it’s not okay for others to pressure, force or trick them into doing things that would only satisfy others and not theirselves. And when the situation is pressure-filled and ‘No’ ‘No thanks’ feels uncomfortable, they should leave and relocate into a safer and less pressure-filled environment.
Peer pressure is a powerful force. ‘Everyone did it’ is not an excuse. Adolescents have to understand that they’ll be held responsible for their own actions.