Research Paper: Social Influence on Teenagers

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Social Influence on Teenagers

The process of Social Influence is marked by an individual's feelings, thoughts, or actions being affected by those of other people. Degrees of social influence are exemplified by such occurrences as conformity, peer pressure, obedience, socialization, and persuasion. Through this influence, individuals are able to manage change in the social world (Caildini, & Trost, 1998, p. 151). One age group that is highly susceptible to the effects of social influence is teenagers. The most notable form of social influence teenagers succumb to is peer pressure. Teenagers are more impressionable to social norms and influences that are perceived as acceptable by their peers. This susceptibility arises from teenagers wanting to "fit in" and be accepted by their friends and peers. The impacts of social influences are both positive and negative. Positive influences include understanding the social world and being able to adapt to varying social situations. Negative influences, in terms of teenagers, includes falling to peer pressure and engaging in behaviors that can be unhealthy or even life threatening. Social influence is a social construct that affects every individual, and the repercussions of which are greatly evident in the teenage population.

Implications of Social Influence

Social influence occurs when one's thoughts, feelings, or actions are shaped by other people. Psychologist Herbert Kelman described three broad categories of social influence: compliance, identification, and internalization (Caildini, & Trost, 1998, p. 436). Compliance occurs when individuals appear to agree with others while simultaneously hiding their opposing opinion. Identification is a matter of individuals being influenced by behaviors of someone who is liked and respected. Internalization is the acceptance and embedding of an individual's belief or behavior privately and publicly. Social influence is a complex psychosocial construct that all humans rely on to develop their sense of norms and acceptable behaviors (Caildini, & Trost, 1998). Norms and behaviors that are perceived as acceptable are responsible for shaping concepts of manners, etiquette, morals, and beliefs. The implications of social influence are worldwide and are made evident throughout societies and cultures. Every conversation, personal decision, and behavior has been touched by social influence in some way.

How Teenagers are Susceptible

Teenagers are more susceptible to social influences. The adolescent and teenage years are a time for drastic physical change, hormones, mental and emotional development. These changes also encourage emotional needs to feel accepted by their peers. The need to feel accepted and well received by the group is the main reason teenagers give in to peer pressure. In regards to peer pressure, a major difference between adults and teenagers is that teenagers are more drawn to the immediate rewards of their choices, and are less likely to think ahead and consider potential consequences of their actions ("Peer pressure: it's," 2011). Teenagers typically spend less time contemplating risk than adults. This lack of risk assessment in addition to teenagers still learning impulse control, creates an environment for teenagers to fall to peer pressure ("Peer pressure: it's," 2011). Another contributing effect increasing the susceptibility of teenagers to social influence is a teenager's need for peer acceptance as defiance override their parents' rules and standards. Teenagers' willingness to mimic their peers can cause influencial behaviors from people outside the family, i.e. friends, parents of friends, etc. To undermine the expectations of their parents (Steinberg, 2001).

The variation of the intensity of social influence among teenagers is also driven by what is known as localized conformity. Localized conformity is the display of manners, characters, and actions that are agreeable to a particular group of a certain place and time. In the context of teenagers, one group of teenagers can be compelled to submit to one set of behaviors, while another group of teenagers does not (Hirshleifer, 1995). The influences of time, geography, cultures, and other variables contribute to these differences. Teenagers feel the need to conform to accepted norms of their direct peers, independent of what other teenage populations believe to be acceptable behaviors.

Positive and Negative Impacts of Social Influence on Teenagers

Social influence has a range of affects on teenagers, scoping both positive and negative impacts. As teenagers age and become more engaged with school and other activities, it can result in the teenager spending more time away from home and therefore cultivating friendships with individuals their own age. The positive aspects of these interactions involve developing social interaction skills, communication, and independence ("Peer pressure: it's," 2011). Nurturing… [END OF PREVIEW]

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