October 29, 2014 —
Every month, we’re keeping you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at the relationship between teen peer pressure, age and parenting.
As teens transition from adolescents to adults, social acceptance takes on a new importance. Unfortunately, forming and navigating new social groups comes with challenges. The desire to fit in with a group can lead teens to test boundaries and give in to pressure to engage in risky behaviors such as cough medicine abuse. In fact, studies have suggested that this susceptibility to peer pressure can be linked to age, as well as a lack of validation from parents.
In a Temple University study addressing the relationship between age and resistance to peer pressure, researchers found that children are the most vulnerable to peer pressure between the ages of 10 and 14. The study suggested that during this time, adolescents are choosing to be less dependent on their parents in favor of dependence on friends. However, fear of total independence and fear of rejection from the group bolsters the need for total conformity. After age 14, teens are in a crucial period to become more firm in their beliefs. Having that sense of identity mitigates the need to conform to the crowd.
In a similar study, researchers at the University of Virginia assessed how peer and familial relationships predicted adolescent vulnerability to peer pressure. This included analyzing adolescent independence within a family, popularity of friends within an adolescent’s peer group and the strength of social skills required to avoid negative influence. Findings suggested that all of these factors are involved in the peer influence process. In fact, results suggested that merely exposure to risky behaviors, such as substance abuse, made adolescents more likely to engage. Furthermore, adolescents who lacked support in their relationships with their mothers were more susceptible to peer pressure.
These two studies suggest that teens who feel validated by their parents are more resistant to peer pressure, and age plays a factor in whether or not a teen is likely to succumb to social influence. Parents instill a sense of confidence, independence and the ability to verbally articulate emotions in their teens. This includes empathizing with them and modeling healthy emotional expression. When teens can express themselves openly – and when parents listen and acknowledge them – a foundation of trust and support between parent and teen is built.
With all of this in mind, Stop Medicine Abuse created the #ToMyTeen campaign to spark a conversation among parents about what is positive and rewarding about raising tends today. Please feel free to join us in this discussion by sharing what makes YOU proud to be raising a teen. We can’t wait to see your photos!
Check out this Psychology Today article for more information about the two studies listed above.