Term Paper: Peer Pressure and American Teens

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Peer Pressure and American Teens

Peer Pressure: A Parent's Focus on Helping their Teen

The purpose of this work is to explore the effects of peer pressure on American teenaged individuals and the problems that are faced by them in today's society as well as focusing on the ways that parents can help their teenager in coping with these pressures and issues.

The growth and development of children particularly as they enter the adolescent years or teenage years revolves for a very great part the individual's consideration of what their peers think. The need for parental guidance is at an all time high while at the same time the desire for guidance from parents and elders in society is at an all time low. Not understanding themselves as well as feeling very misunderstood is the natural state of being for the teenager. Peer pressure can be either very negative or very positive but practically never is it simply somewhere between. Peer pressure can lead to drug use or it can instill participation in religious services or community initiative programs.

I. Two Primary Developments for the Teenaged Individual:

The development of autonomy and identity are stated to be two primary aspects of in development for the teenager during this phase of growing up. Identity is the discovering of the answer to "who am I" while autonomy refers to the individual's discovery that they are separate from their parents which involves an individual acceptance of responsibility for oneself.

There are many dangers encountered by teens as well as many behaviors which hopefully can be avoided. According to Deutsch and Gerard, 1955 it is an indication stated in theory that the element of 'social influence' is introduced at the time in which an individual, through comparison of self to others makes judgment as to the appropriateness of their personal behavior. Erikson, 1963 relates that even children are observed progressing within this dimension of 'social influence'. Peterson and Spiga (1982) state that teens are especially liable to be pressured in the wrong direction by peers due to the sharing of the hormonal changes of adolescence.

Three 'criteria' named in studying the process of the choosing of friends by the teen are listed as being the following:

Physical proximity

Age

Lifestyle similarities

During adolescence several things have been noted. First is the fact that teens and parents tend to become psychologically and physically distant from each other during this time of development. There are also increases in family strains which are inclusive of conflicts being on the increase due to struggles with curfews and other issues not faced before between the child and parent. The issues of gangs, driver's license, pregnancy, and all other closely related issues having never been prevalent in the teen's life are now issues being dealt with and all this amidst the hormonal and biological changes which the teen is experiencing in their development.

II. Peer Influence Research:

Research has been conducted and reported on concerning the issue peer influence among teens. Cross-sectional case study shows that there are connection between teen's perception of the activities of their peers and their own cigarette smoking, consumption of alcohol, use of drugs as well as the likelihood for the teen in being sexually promiscuous. The finding show that all of the just named behaviors are more likely to be taken up by the teen whose peer group considers these activities to be normal. In the normal sense of the word some adopted peer group behaviors are harmless expressed in hairstyles or preference of tennis shoes or clothing styles. However there exist a dark side of group behavior that has the potential to lead the unwary teen into dabbling in the occult, experimenting with drugs or sexual experiences, committing crimes and even suicide.

A study conducted and reported by Kimberly a. Maxwell in the work entitled, "The Role of Peer Influence Across Adolescent Risk Behaviors" published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence August 2002 Vol. 1, Issue 4 states that in the study which examined the influence of a single friend on a variety of teen risk behaviors: smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, consuming alcohol, using marijuana and sexual debut using longitudinal data the findings were that a friend of the same sex is likely to influence an adolescent to change his or her risk activity level. In other words, if the teen's friends smoke, drinks alcohol, does drugs, or is sexually active then that is likely to raise the chance in risk behavior, or that is change the chance that the teen will smoke, drink alcohol or become sexually active.

The realizations that a parent must come to if the parent is serious about assisting their teen are not comfortable realizations but they are necessary ones. The power that peers hold over each other in peer groups is unbelievably strong and should never be underestimated in the scheme of thing by the parents of teens. While the world is daring the teen to assert their independence and the peer groups are pressuring the teen to join in with the gang the parent's difficult job is the interjection of reasoning into the consideration of the teen as to the wisdom in choices that are being made and behaviors that are being adopted.

What Parents can do to help Their Teen:

There are several suggestions provided for assisting teens through their issues, specifically the avoidance of undue peer pressure consideration when making important decisions in their life. The first suggestion is in listening. It is important that the parent "listen" to the teen and to do so without being "judgmental" but to do so in a "compassionate" manner. The technique that will work the best is to withhold any derogatory comments in relation to other children or their actions but at the same time the parent should hold strong in their personal values. Secondly, at all times the parent should encourage and reinforce the esteem of the teen that is at a very shaky point in development in relation to self-confidence.

The parent of a teen can be well advised in wisely choosing their battles. There is no way to make a major issue of each and every situation that arises or the fight will be a constant one which the teen will simply do their best to ignore. The pink hair and the earring might be a little much for any parent to possibly bear but these outward signs of establishing identity are not dangerous to the teen or others, never minding the elderly woman who nearly hit the neighbor's pet blinded by the pink glare at the bus stop this morning. Therefore it is probably wise to save energy for the battle about the rave party that will certainly be an issue again this weekend.

Setting rules for the teen that are both 'firm' and 'fair' is another important element in a parent's helping their teen. The setting of standards with pre-set punishment is important. The teen will naturally give consideration to defying the parent, however with the 'lines firmly drawn' the teen can use the punishment as an excuse to avoid the behavior of his friends as an 'out' with the peer group as well as personally considering the punishment and not feeling it is worth it to participate in whatever behavior the parent has warned against.

The parent must be reasonable and realistic when setting down rules and it is also good to leave room for mistakes. For instance, many parents are so harsh on drinking alcohol that the teen will get in the car with other drivers who have been drinking instead of calling the parents. It is much better to pick up an inebriated teen from a party than to receive a call from the hospital or coroner. Fostering a close relationship with the teen is important for parents to work at. The closer the teen is to the parents, the more able the teen feels to talk to parents, then the more likely the teen will be able to pass on through the teen developmental years without a major mishap that affects the rest of their lives. Avoiding the tendency to see all other children as bad and their own child as the only good child in town is important. Many parents in their endeavor to protect their teen run off all of the teen's potential friends and in the process run away all the good potential friendships that the teen might develop. It is vital that when a parent sees that the teen has a friend who holds high standards of behavior as well as high standards in school and community achievement that the parent encourage the friendship between the two as these types of friendships are the type that become anchors in the teen's life and probably are the greatest asset in avoiding the pitfalls and traps that so many of today's teens fall into.

Another important factor in assisting the teen during this incredibly risky… [END OF PREVIEW]

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