Peer pressure is defined as the influence that peers exert over a person, often to change the said person’s beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors. The overarching goal is to make one conform with the group and comply with its rules. The influence does not have to be direct, as unspoken or indirect peer pressure can be as powerful. It is said that the potency of peer pressure peaks in middle school, during a child’s most impressionable years, due to the spurts of growth that their brain is going through. Parents, teachers, and older relatives are often concerned with such biologically and socially driven group dynamics. However, it should be noted that peer pressure is not inherently good or bad. This essay argues that peer pressure can positively affect academic achievement and help recover from diseases and traumatic life events.
School and academia take up a large amount of time in every person’s life. This period coincides with some of the most profound but often confusing brain changes in humans. As discovered by Sherman et al., the brains of teenagers and young adults are extremely sensitive to affect and reward processing (40). External cues drive young people’s behaviors and shape their life trajectories. One cannot consciously turn off these processes because social learning and attunement to one’s surroundings are important for transitioning into adulthood. Therefore, their potential can and should be used to benefit young people. Filed et al. discovered a strong relationship between peer pressure and academic achievement (85). The scholars pointed out that the group could shape educational outcomes, be they negative or positive, in powerful ways, which is why school officials and policymakers need to pay more attention to students’ psychological health and relationships.
One way to put peer pressure to good use is to create study groups. Varshney and Mason argue that when managed properly, study groups are complementary to lecture-based education and improve all parties’ academic achievements (486). The secret to the effectiveness of study groups’ lies in the social ties that manifest themselves in the process of studying together. According to Varshney and Mason, a small-sized study group of 4-6 students creates ground rules that are easy to maintain (487). There is a threat of expulsion if a member does not comply with them, which elevates the value of membership and serves as an incentive to keep up with the pace. The group’s participants motivate each other to study and utilize each other’s strengths and weaknesses to benefit everyone.
Furthermore, peer pressure may be an essential mechanism behind recovery from traumatic events and disorders. Today, many organizations that deal with substance abuse rely on self-run groups whose members support each other on their journey to healing. For example, Anonymous Alcoholic (AA) runs Twelve-Step meetings where participants are put into subgroups based on where they are in the program. Essentially, they become surrounded by people with similar problems and determination to fight addiction. The arrangement holds every member accountable not only for himself but also in the eyes of others because failing the expectations of people who believe in him or her would be undesirable. The gratitude meetings, another popular form of AA events, involves AA members who have gone completely clean and are willing to share their story. By doing so, they set an example for those who are still struggling, incentivizing them to take action.
Tracy and Wallace describe the benefits of peer support groups for a variety of problems and life events, such as homelessness, HIV/hepatitis C virus risk behaviors, or the necessity to undergo treatment with little motivation to comply (143). Their systematic review revealed that peer support helped to decrease risk behaviors in HIV-positive individuals to 15% (Tracy and Wallace 148). The same holds even for complicated cases such as HIV/HCV positive men who suffer from alcohol abuse have sex with other men. Support groups were enough to mitigate cravings in recovery addicts who were formerly incarcerated (Tracy and Wallace 148). According to the scholars, peer support groups worked in two directions. On the one hand, they improved participants’ self-esteem by nurturing their confidence and positive feelings. On the other hand, there was a clear progression track that individuals had to comply with. Observing other people’s success discouraged them from relapsing; essentially, they had to follow the group.
Peer pressure is an inherent part of group dynamics in certain age demographics. Biology and social norms drive a person to consider the group’s opinion and recalibrate their behavior and choices to fit the mold. Contrary to popular belief, not all peer pressure is detrimental to young people’s development. Evidence shows that peer pressure has a lot of potential for shaping a person’s attitudes to school and studying behaviors and can lead to academic success. However, peer pressure not only helps people advance in life, but can also be instrumental in personal healing from traumatic events and disorders. Peer support groups are widely used to treat addiction and reduce recidivism.
Filade, Bankole Adeyemi, et al. “Peer Group Influence on Academic Performance of Undergraduate Students in Babcock University, Ogun State.” African Educational Research Journal, vol. 7, no. 2, 2019, pp. 81-87. Web.
Sherman, Lauren E. et al. “Peer Influence via Instagram: Effects on Brain and Behavior in Adolescence and Young Adulthood.” Child Development, vol. 89, no. 1, 2018, pp. 37–47. Web.
Tracy, Kathlene, and Samantha P Wallace. “Benefits of Peer Support Groups in the Treatment of Addiction.” Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, vol. 7, 2016, pp. 143-154. Web.
Varshney, Navya, and Nancy A. Mason. “Evaluation of Peer-Led Study Groups in a PharmD Program.” Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning, vol. 11, no. 5, 2019, pp. 485-491. Web.