– Dr. Marilyn Billingsly, pediatrician
It’s conventional wisdom that peer pressure is a powerful force in the lives of kids, especially teenagers. A new University study reminds us that while peer pressure can push kids into risky behavior, it can also help kids do the right thing.
Alex Shillinger is in court facing drug charges. He says he was “worn down” by peer pressure to try marijuana.
“There were constantly people telling me, ‘Come on, just try it, just one time, it’ll be fine,’” says Alex, 18.
On the other hand, because of peer pressure, Ambra says she’s never done drugs or alcohol or had sex.
“Being around people like that, just like myself, it keeps me motivated,” says Ambra, 17.
Peers can be powerful influences, for both goodandbad behavior. A new study from the University of Southern California found that kids were less likely to use drugs if they were in a substance abuse program taught by other kids.
“Peer pressure is not always bad. It can be very good. It can be encouraging. Sometimes a person may not want to choose hi-risk behaviors and may not want to do the wrong thing because they know their friends aren’t into that,” says Dr. Marilyn Billingsly, pediatrician.
Of course, it depends on the friends — and parents have little control over that.
“I think it makes it even more important for parents to know their kids’ friends and the parents of their kids friends and monitor what’s going on with the group of friends,” Dr. Carol Drummond, Ph.D., psychologist.
If you suspect that one of your child’s friends isusing drugs, experts say to make your views on drugs loud and clear and tell your child you’re worried.
“Sometimes your kid will come back and say, ‘Listen, Mom, I know he’s drinking, doing drugs; I am not doing that.’ But at least you’ve gotten a chance to plant that message that you’ve got worries. You’ve got to watch your own child. And if you feel like you have some concern that your child is making bad decisions, then you need to act aggressively,” says Dr. Judy Wolman, Ph.D., psychologist.
Tips for Parents
- Peer pressure is not always a bad thing. For example, positive peer pressure can be used to pressure bullies into acting better toward other kids. If enough kids get together, peers can pressure each other into doing what’s right. (Nemours Foundation)
- Some good behaviors that friends can pressure each other to do include: be honest, be nice, exercise, avoid alcohol, respect others, avoid drugs, work hard, don’t smoke. (National Institutes of Health, NIH)
- You and your friends can pressure each other into some things that will improve your health and social life and make you feel good about your decisions. (NIH)
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)