As children grow older, they will undoubtedly be subjected to peer pressure. Peer pressure can be both positive and negative. If teens have responsible friends, their group's personalities will help ground them because they are not subject to negative peer pressure from those closest to them.

Negative peer pressure can range from people convincing a teen that spending money is an important part of being a teenager, to situations with more dire consequences: Drugs, alcohol and sex.

How Teens Fall Into Peer Pressure

If all teens are confronted with peer pressure, how can they learn to resist it—especially when the pressure comes from people considered to be “friends."

Why do teens follow peer pressure? People in general want to be liked. They want to be part of a group. Following the lead of a friend or peer is one way that teens become or feel part of the group. This peer pressure, though, can have its consequences, and it is important that teens know how to resist peer pressure when it can lead to negative consequences.

Resisting Peer Pressure

  • Make friends with people who have similar values to you. A diverse pool of friends is important, but teens also want to make sure they are surrounding themselves with people who will not always pressure them to act in ways that may make them feel uncomfortable. Friends with similar values are less likely to put people in a situation where they feel the need to succumb to peer pressure.
  • Pay attention to your own values. As a teenager, you are developing your own sense of values. Some of these may be similar to those of your parents, and some of these values and attitudes may challenge them. But, if you feel uncomfortable in a situation, then avoid the situation.
  • Learn to say “no." Adolescence is a trying time, even for the “cool kids." Learn that throughout your life you will have to tell people “no." If you must use an excuse, you can blame your parents or create a believable story that shows you understand the dangers of what your peers are trying to convince you to do, whether it is using drugs, alcohol or simply participate in an inappropriate behavior.
  • Talk to an adult that you trust. This adult may be a parent, but it could also be a teacher, counselor or coach. Seeking advice from a trusted adult is one way to know how to handle the situation if it occurs again.
  • Talk to your parents, even if that discussion results in an argument. Recent research published in Child Development explains that children who have productive arguments with their parents are less likely to fall to peer pressure. Teens who can use reason to discuss their viewpoints with their parents and gain experience framing their own ideas are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, and are more confident when dealing with their own friends.

The consequences of peer pressure for parents and teens can be intimidating. Providing teens with the confidence to say no to friends is an important step in helping them resist peer pressure.