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The findings of this study support the view that the effects of peer pressure are related to earlier processes in childhood. This has led to the recognized research imperative to "...include longitudinal data from both peer and family contexts in studies of trajectories leading to adolescent problem behaviors" (p.45). In other words, the study points to the importance of a more holistic approach to understanding the motivational impetus and effects of peer pressure which takes into account both home experiences and experiences with peers and the way that these factors in combination effect development in children and young adults. As the study states: "What children learn at home from their parents, they bring to the peer group" (Garnier & Stein, 2002, p 45).
Types of peer pressure
The literature also refers to the different types of peer pressure and influences that have been defined and classified. These different types are important as they shed light on the actual mechanism of peer influence. Burton et al. (2003) suggests that "...understanding peer influence could be enhanced by linking children's friendship research with social-psychological theories of interpersonal influence and... work on social power" (p.235). This stance supports the view that the mechanism and process of peer pressure is best seen in an analysis of the ways that peers manipulate one another. This has resulted in a typology of peer influence and relationships.
The first of these is peer influence through reinforcement and reward. As Burton et al. state; "Reward refers to anything that promotes a behavior being repeated in the future. Among friends, reward is often times the companionship and support that friends provide..." (p.235) the use of reward and reinforcement through friendship can be an extremely powerful motivator and influence among peers. This can be a factor in, for example, peer pressure that encourages drinking among peers. (Burton, Ray & Mehta, 2003, p.236) Furthermore, this is also related to the concept of modeling, where an adolescent may observe another peer being reinforced or rewarded and adopt this behavior.
Another motivator and reinforcement that adds to peer pressure is companionship. This is also a powerful form of pressure in adolescents who need to "belong" or those who are isolated or are outsiders. It should be noted that reinforcement and reward can be seen in both a negative and positive sense. For example, "Reinforcement is equally seen in antisocial situations. A friend might say, 'If you smoke with us, we can all be friends' "(Burton, Ray & Mehta, 2003, p.236). As mentioned above, modeling is a type of conformity that is often seen in groups. This involves "... The imitating of one person's behavior to another person's behavior as a consequence of direct or symbolic observation" (Burton, Ray & Mehta, 2003, p.236). An adolescent may model his or her behavior on others that they admire or like. This is also related to what is theoretically known as referent power. An example of this form of peer influence can be seen in studies of withdrawn children. In one particular study withdrawn children were shown videos of socially competent peers interacting. "After viewing the videos, withdrawn children became more sociable in their interactions with other children" (Burton, Ray & Mehta, 2003, p.236).
3. Consequences of negative peer pressure.
Various studies emphasize that peer influence in the modern world has an enormous influence on children and adolescents. This is mainly due to the reality that "...teens spend more time with peers and less with families during their transition into adulthood, peers have the most important influence on their day-to-day behaviors" (Garnier & Stein, 2002, p.45). The literature also emphasizes that more and more studies indicate "... peer influences as a key construct in the etiology and maintenance of adolescents' reckless behavior" (Bradley & Wildman, 2002). Similar studies also show that there is a declining degree of influence in peer pressure over time and that "...pressure from peers to engage in misconduct moved from a relatively strong discouraging position in younger adolescents to a more neutral or encouraging position in older adolescents" (Bradley & Wildman, 2002, p.253).
However, there is definitive research data that shows that peer pressure and deviant companions can result in risk taking and various forms of delinquent behavior. (Thorlindsson & Bernburg, 2006) Educationist and criminologists claim that there is a strong correlation between deviant peers and mechanisms of peer pressure and the transference of deviant attitudes, values and actions. (Garnier & Stein, 2002) This refers to issues such as drug abuse, delinquency and other forms of socially unacceptable behavior. In an empirical study of adolescences and deviate peer pressure by Garnier and Stein (2002) it was found that, " Drug use and delinquency are typically social behaviors, and the adolescents in this study tended to become involved in the same behaviors as their friends" (p.253). The study also found that "...their involvement in one type of behavior significantly increased the likelihood of involvement in other problem behaviors. Teens who engage in problem behaviors generally are inclined to associate with other teens who are involved in similar behaviors" (p.253).
This correlation between delinquency and other forms of negative social behavior is also reiterated in many other studies. In a study of reckless behavior among adolescent and young people it was found that there was a greater emphasis on peer pressure and reckless behavior among males than among female adolescents. (Bradley & Wildman, 2002, p.253) This study also paints a picture of male respondents as being more influenced by stereotypical idea of male behavior such as nonconforming and bold action, which are supported by modeling and peer pressure.
More importantly in this study it was found that, "...the extent to which 18-25-year-olds are influenced by their peers to adopt antisocial or unconventional behaviors predicts these individuals' involvement in a range of reckless behavior (and) has broader implications" (Bradley & Wildman, 200. p. 253). This refers to the hypothesis that adolescent peer pressure and the development of antisocial activities may be continued into adulthood and has consequences for later adult experience and behavior.
Beside the fact that peer pressure can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, as well as a myriad of other negative behavior patterns, one of the most disconcerting results of peer pressure is the isolation and targeting of those who do not conform to peer standards and value systems set up by peer pressure groups in contemporary society. This refers particularly to the forms of aggressive bullying and victimization that has been prevalent in American schools in recent years; and which have been blamed for many acts of violence in our schools. In a recent (2004) study on this issue it was found that, "...of over 15,000 junior high and high school students found that 8.4% of those surveyed reported being bullied once a week or more during the current semester" (Dill et al., 2004, p.159) the results of this form of victimization can be extremely debilitating with possible long-term effects. "Of greatest concern, repeated victimization produces insidious, potentially debilitating effects, including increased anger and depression, low self-esteem, and social withdrawal" (Dill et al., 2004, p.159). This factor is aligned with peer rejection. Coleman and Byrd (2003) describe this connection between peer pressure, rejection and victimization. "Peers are typically relied upon heavily during adolescence for emotional support and friendship; however, relations with peers are at times colored by predominantly negative experiences that may constitute peer victimization" (Coleman & Byrd, 2003, p 301). In this light peer victimization is defined as "actions taken by one or more youths with the intention of inflicting physical or psychological injury or pain on another youth"(Coleman & Byrd, 2003, p 301). There has been a considerable amount of research focused on the problem of peer victimization, the ways that if effects adolescent behavior and possible strategies to combat this phenomenon in schools.
Another important area of concerns related to peer pressure, which is particularly contemporaneous, is the possible negative effect on health issues due to peer influence and the media. The increase in eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia has been a daily part of the media and news. Images in the news and examples set by celebrities provide desired ideals of body image that are emulated and enforced through subtle forms of pressure - especially among adolescent girls. There is a plethora of data and statistics that show the seriousness of this problem." Between 30 and 50% of adolescent girls are either concerned about their weight or are actually dieting" (Phares, Steinberg & Thompson, 2004, p. 421). Studies also note the connection between peer pressure and body image. "...one study found that adolescents' disturbed eating and weight concerns were related to the dieting and weight control strategies of peers as well as to the amount they reported talking with peers about dieting." (Phares, Steinberg & Thompson, 2004, p.421) Furthermore, peer pressure in this regard can…[continue]
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