According to experts, peers contribute significantly to the social and emotional development of children, and these contributions continue to grow as children become teens. Teen peer pressure can be a strong influence in both positive and negative ways.

If peer pressure can be a positive factor in an adolescent’s life, you may be wondering how or why peer pressure also influences teens to try drugs. The answer is that teens don’t want to be excluded or teased, so they may experiment with drugs if others are doing the same.

What Is Teen Peer Pressure Caused By?

There are several factors causing peer pressure. These can be as simple as having a desire to fit in and have friends. Another guiding factor is that the teenage years are when people are beginning to separate from their parents and form their own identities. As they do this, they may join a group of friends who engage in certain behaviors or activities.

Teens will often behave similarly to their friends to fit in with the social circle. In addition, research shows that peer acceptance is associated with a more positive emotional reaction during the teenage years compared to adulthood. This evidence shows that adolescence is a time when peer influence is especially strong.

Teens may also experience peer pressure because they think “everyone is doing it.” For example, if they see a crowd of popular peers dressing a certain way or experimenting with alcohol, they may think that all of their peers are doing this. The belief that others are doing something can lead a teen to feel pressured to do the same thing.

How Does Peer Pressure Affect Teens?

Peer pressure can affect teens in a variety of ways, both positive and negative. For example, peer pressure can influence everything from the way a teen dresses to the activities they choose to do.

Healthy Behaviors

Examples of peer pressure include healthy behaviors, which are influenced by positive peer pressure. For example, peer pressure from friends may encourage a teen to exercise or eat healthy foods. Healthy peer pressure can also influence teens to improve their grades or join clubs or sports teams that can have a positive effect on their lives.

Unhealthy Behaviors

While peer pressure can be positive, it is also known to be associated with unhealthy behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use. Research shows that negative peer pressure is linked to risky behaviors, such as smoking, drinking and the use of marijuana and other drugs. Teens who see peers experimenting with drugs may do the same. Peers may even offer drugs and alcohol, which also encourages use.

Social Engagements

Peer pressure can also have an influence on a teen’s social engagements. Teen cliques affect social behaviors and are a primary form of peer pressure. According to experts, cliques represent typical peer development, and these social groups can be a source of strong peer pressure. The influence of cliques is so strong, in fact, that they have a greater effect on behavior than individual friends do. Teens may belong to one of a variety of cliques, such as “jocks” or “nerds,” and they will spend a significant amount of time interacting with peers belonging to their respective cliques.

Dating Behaviors

Experts report that peer pressure can influence teens to date and form romantic partnerships. Teen sex and peer pressure may also be related. One study found that friends had an influence on both romantic and sexual behaviors of teens. For instance, adolescents in the study reported that their friends might persuade them to enter relationships. In addition, romantic relationships were expected and associated with popularity. Teens in the study also reported feeling pressure to become involved in sexual behavior to make their partners happy and avoid upsetting them.