Need and Meaning of Peer Pressure

Everyone is continuously exposed to peer pressure. Peers can influence everything from what an individual chooses to wear to whether or not they engage in drug related or other delinquent behavior. Many individuals are taught the negative effects associated with peer pressure but few are shown the importance and necessity for peer pressure. This paper addresses the necessity and need for positive peer influence in relation to self esteem, creating social relationships, and influencing change through the use of parallel options.

The Need for Peer Pressure “As the saying goes that a man is known by the company he keeps. Good company can make a man whereas bad company can ruin him. ” Sam Veda. According to Gray (2010). “Human beings are social animals. ” “We develop and learn about the world around us through the filter of other people. ” (pg. 1) Peer pressure can be defined as the influence exerted by a peer or group on an individual to fit in with or conform to a group’s expectations by thinking, feeling, and acting in a like or approved way.

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There are both positive and negative responses to peer pressure; which are essential to human behavior. Everyone continually experiences peer pressure from our significant others, coworkers, media, school, and even the government through the use of words of encouragement, criticism, or persuasion. For example, as stated by Sarah Kessler (2012). “A recent study at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine supports the theory that peers can influence exercise.

” (p. 1) Kessler determined from the study that if you hang out with peers who are active then you will be more likely to be active yourself.

Peer pressure has been proven to have necessary and positive effects; specifically in boosting self esteem, creating social relationships, and increasing parallel options to facilitated needed change. Self Esteem The positive effects of peer pressure bolsters an individual’s self esteem. Psychology tells us that self esteem is the overall evaluation of one’s self worth. Positive peer pressure on an individual can create and develop positive feelings of self-worth; raising the level of self esteem.

Tackett, Nelson and Busby (2013) study found that self esteem is increased when an individual feels validated, cared for, and understood. The study shows that there is a direct correlation on peer acceptance and self esteem. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a commonly accepted theory in psychology, expresses that everyone has a valid need to be accepted and valued by others. Maslow also expresses in his theory that people need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance within their social groups.

The closer your relationship is with others the more impact and pressure they can exercise over you. According to the Mayo Clinic (2011), “If your close relationships are strong and you receive generally positive feedback, you’re more likely to see yourself as worthwhile and have healthier self-esteem. ” (p. 1) The effects of positive peer pressure can commonly be seen in a healthy marriage. Where couples use peer pressure to balance each other out by discouraging risky behavior and encouraging good behavior.

Cialdini, R. B. Goldstein, N. J. (2004) “Individuals often engage in more conscious and deliberate attempts to gain the social approval of others, to build rewarding relationships with them, and in the process, to enhance their self-esteem. ” (p. 610). Social Relationships Peer pressure can help to create healthy social relationships. Being accepted or rejected by different social groups will determine the friends and company you keep. The more strongly you feel accepted, validated, and understood; the closer your relationship bond with others will be.

Through the use of positive peer pressure many social groups have been able to increase their number of members and the overall effectiveness of the group. The U. S. Army uses two peer influence programs called the “battle buddy” system and sponsorship program. They are designed to build social relationships and discourage deviant behaviors. Social relationships and peer pressure have resulted in many positive outcomes. For example, Douglas Stanglin (2010) from USA Today reported that the Red Cross was able to raise $3 million dollars from text messages in just over 24 hours of the earthquake in Haiti.

Social networks like Facebook and Linkedin continuously help individuals find connection with others and can validate many of your values and beliefs; which increases the influences that can be exerted toward you. Parallel Options According to the research and studies conducted by Cialdini and Goldstein (2004) if you use options that run in parallel to pre-existing ideas, which people can take on without standing out, are more likely to cause changes in societies behaviors.

To change a group’s opinion, we must be able to present options that do not go against what the group wants. By understanding how peer pressure works we can utilize positive effects of peer pressure to facilitate change. Many different researchers have found that peer pressure can make you more generous, help with losing weight, raise scholastic grades, reduce energy consumption, and even help quick smoking/drinking. Tina Rosenberg wrote Join The Club: How Peer Pressure Can Change the World, a book which gives example of how to use positive peer pressure to solve social problems.

Steve Weinberg (2011). Weinberg also stated: To Rosenberg, it became obvious that peer pressure could achieve wonders. After all, since time immemorial, peer pressure has nurtured the dark side of human nature–violent street gangs, suicide pacts, high-school dropouts, persecution of minorities. Turning peer pressure on its head, she realized, might do some serious good. Everyone can use peer pressure through social and peer groups to correct the issues plaguing society.

Conclusion In conclusion, peer pressure will always be present as long as there is a human need to rely on each other for our physical and emotional needs. Peer pressure is a necessary and essential part of every individual’s life. Everyone should be aware of the negative effects, but should focus on its positive effects that boost self esteem, create social relationships, and increase parallel options to facilitated needed change. Acceptance, respect and encouragement from our peers have proven to have a positive and essential effect on our individual and social well being.