Peer Pressure

By Alex Benowitz

Imagine the following scenario; Julia is a straight "A" student. One night she is out with her friends and one of them pulls out a box of cigarettes. Soon after, everyone begins to smoke except for Julia. One friend asks, "Want a puff?" At first, Julia says, "NO", but then her friends continue to pressure her and say, "C'mon, just one puff, that can't hurt." Julia gives into the pressure and takes a puff. When Julia returns home her parents smell smoke on her breath and knew she has smoked cigarettes and grounded her. As shown in the example, negative peer pressure created by social bonds results in misbehavior and poor choices that lead to negative consequences.

Teens learn to define themselves by their affiliations with a peer group even if that leads to making poor choices. One example of this was reported in, "Teenagers Admit Drug Peer Pressure", when they said that one fifth of teenagers say their friends were pressured into pretending to take drugs in order to fit in with a peer group. This statement shows that even though they didn't take the drugs, they still felt the need to make others believe they did in order to fit in. Another example from, confidential helpline, FRANK, showed that almost half of teenagers that were questioned, said that the need to fit in with a peer group dictated their friends behavior. If someone's answer to the phrase, "If your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you jump too?" was "YES", this would be an example of how friends decisions dictate how a person may behave. Overall, if your peers where using drugs, their decision to use could dictate your decision to use no matter what the consequences might be.

Committing to risky behavior caused by negative peer pressure can cost teens their life. One example of this was reported in, "Orland Park Death Proves Peer Pressure Kills", regarding a teen named Wakulich, that was described as, "nice, responsible and a daughter any parent would be proud of." Unfortunately, "Surrounded by friends the 16 year old did something dangerous and it cost Wakulich her life," after being pressured to drink a large amount of alcohol at a party. As you can see, even teenagers who are normally responsible, could risk their lives when submitting to negative peer pressure in order to fit in. Another example was found from studies done at Temple University that showed in a driving video game, teens ran about 40% more yellow lights and had 60% more crashes when their peers were watching. This shows that teens thrive to impress their peers by taking risks even if they know they could be life threatening. In conclusion, negative peer pressure can cost teens their life when trying hard to impress their peers.

Others may argue that negative peer pressure could also lead to positive outcomes. For example, when teens use strategies that get them out of pressured situations they can build self esteem. Another example of how this could create a positive outcome is if a teen was being negatively peer pressured and they realized that they don't have to be friends with people who want to submit them to negative peer pressure. Although these are two possible outcomes, I don't believe that negative peer pressure often results in positive outcomes.

In conclusion, peer pressure can result in misbehavior and poor choices due to social bonds that can cause negative outcomes. Teens are pressured into submitting themselves to risky behavior and as a result have had many negative consequences and even lost their lives. As a society, we need to realize how dangerous peer pressure can be for a teen who is just trying to fit in.