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When you think of peer pressure, is it primarily a force encouraging negative and antisocial behaviors? Alternatively, can peer pressure lead adolescents to positive/prosocial behaviors?

When you think of peer pressure, is it primarily a force encouraging negative and antisocial behaviors? Alternatively, can peer pressure lead adolescents to positive/prosocial behaviors?

A very common term discussed by youth, parents, and teachers alike is peer pressure. What is meant by this term, and what has research found? Is peer pressure the monolithic force that people think it is? Peer pressure is defined as the process in which “people of the same age group encourage particular behavior, dress, and attitude. This is usually considered negative, when peers encourage behavior that is contrary to norms or morals, but it can also be positive” (Berger, 2016, p. 360). Research has found that some individuals are more susceptible to the influence of peers than others based on their genetic makeup and early experiences (Prinstein, Brechwald, & Cohen, 2011). Further, research has found that early adolescents (ages 11–13) are more susceptible to influence than late adolescents (ages 17–19).

How exactly do researchers study peer pressure? This is an interesting question, as adolescents may not be willing or even aware enough of their own motivations and behavior to describe their actions in this area. A group of researchers led by Jensen and Bursztyn (2015) devised a very interesting approach to understanding the impact of peer pressure in adolescence. They performed an experiment on 11th graders in several public schools in Los Angeles, in which they offered a free online SAT prep course for which students could sign up. They described the course on a flier, but for one group of students, the flier stated, “Your decision to sign up for the course will be kept completely private from everyone, except the other students in the room.” The other flier had the same description of the SAT prep program, but it stated, “Your decision to sign up for the course will be kept completely private from everyone, including the other students in the room.”

What did they find? These researchers found that for the group of students who thought their classmates would know about their participation in the program, honors students were more likely to sign up, and non-honors students were less likely to sign up if they thought their peers would know. This study demonstrates perfectly the positive and negative effect that peer pressure can have on adolescents. You explore these interconnections in greater detail in this Discussion.

To Prepare:

  • As you review this week’s Learning Resources, consider the following questions: When you think of peer pressure, is it primarily a force encouraging negative and antisocial behaviors? Alternatively, can peer pressure lead adolescents to positive/prosocial behaviors?
  • Consider ways that gender, age, and cultural background may impact the nature of peer pressure.

 

subject: Masters Psychology

 

 

Required Readings

Prosocial

Damon, W. (2004). What is positive youth development? Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 591, 13–24.

Eisenberg, N., Spinrad, T. L., & Knafo-Noam, A. (2015). Prosocial development. In M. E. Lamb (Vol. Ed.) & R. M. Lerner (Series Ed.), Handbook of child psychology and developmental science: Vol. 3. Socioemotional processes (7th ed., pp. 610–656). New York, NY: Wiley

Noorden, T. H. vanHaselager, G. J.Cillessen, A. H., & Bukowski, W. M. (2015)Empathy and involvement in bullying in children and adolescents: A systematic review. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 44(3)637657. doi: 10.1007/s10964-014-0135-6

Antisocial

Fagan, A. A., & Benedini, K. M. (2016). How do family-focused prevention programs work? A review of mediating mechanisms associated with reductions in youth antisocial behaviors. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review19(4), 285–309. doi: 10.1007/s10567-016-0207-0

Kidwell, S. L., Young, M. E., Hinkle, L. D., Ratliff, A. D., Marcum, M. E., & Martin, C. N. (2010). Emotional competence and behavior problems: Differences across Preschool Assessment of Attachment classifications. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry15, 391–406. doi: 10.1177/1359104510367589

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