Peer Pressure: Negative Or Positive Experience

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Peer Pressure has caught public attention from many people, all with varying opinions on the place it has in our society, and how it affects us and those around us. The issue is very relevant, as many people are affected by peer pressure now than ever before. Social Media and faster communications are large factors that contribute to embedding peer pressure within our social conduct. Although peer-pressure is widely regarded as a negative experience for young people mostly due to the aftermath of drug abuse and other regretful acts, it can actually help young people improve their studies, help them mentally, and even provide social development to an extent.

One way in which Peer Pressure has proven to be positive is in the way it helps students improve their GPA, or helps to solve other academic issues. For example; students are utilizing peer pressure to aid their fellow students;

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“…three youngsters have introduced the idea of ‘peer teaching’ in schools, opening the doors to not just fun and casual learning, but also honing leadership and communication skills among students who teach their peers.” (Hussain)

This kind of ‘Peer Pressure’ or Peer Interaction encourages academic advancement through the sharing of ideas in a relaxed environment with relatable tutors. It allows the one being taught or helped to connect more easily with the tutor, causing the material taught to be retroactively understood. This kind of idea was already put into action beforehand to help with students attempting to score big on India’s ITT-JEE exam;

“…Divanshu Kumar and Samyak Jain from IIT Madras and Awnish Raj from Pune University – drew inspiration from another programme, Avanti Fellows, a Chennai-based nonprofit started by two IIT alumni that inculcated peer learning to crack IIT-JEE exams.” (Hussain)

This shows that students are looking to each other for peer review, and as a way to obtain advice.

In the long term, this kind of interaction is helping people academically;

“Sujana Convent principal Divya Lokesh said the programme is contributing to the peer leaders’ personalities. ‘Improvement in grades is still to be seen, but the involvement and understanding of concepts is commendable,’ she said, disclosing that teachers were hesitant at the start of the programme.” (Hussain)

In these situations, Peer Pressure is being utilized positively as a means to help those who are in need of it academically. Students consult each other on problems, and also teach each other new ways to reach the sometimes complicated solutions. While there are no obvious statistics discussed within these excerpts, students were found to have a better grasp on the material that they received help from peers with. Many people tend to agree that good things can come from bad things. Peer Pressure is subject to such an occurrence, causing people to learn from a bad experience, and apply it in order to obtain a better outcome than what came before. Mustafa, a college student, hears her peers discussing how good a college record can be with a second major. Taking their words to heart, she changes her schedule in order to align with these imaginary “prerequisites”. It does not turn out well, as Mustafa begins to notice her grades drop and her interest in her studies waning. From this experience, Mustafa learned a lesson in trust, specifically, how to trust herself. (University Wire, April 2019) She backs this up by stating; “As a particularly strong-willed person, people do not typically associate me with peer pressure. Yet, through this other kind of peer pressure, I have become a more reliable friend, better student, stronger employee and more.” (University Wire, April 2019) All of this evidence derived from Mustafa personally showed that she definitely experienced a positive fallback from negative Peer Pressure. This notion is cemented when Mustafa states:

“Through years of practice with my peers in many avenues I developed listening abilities that will be a resource both personally and professionally. – The other kind of peer pressure pushes us to challenge ourselves and grow as people. The other kind of peer pressure challenges our preconceived notions and deserves much more credit and attention than it receives.” (University Wire, April 2019)

All of this gives a definitive conclusion to the effects of negative peer pressure. It shows that such a negative aspect of interaction can be turned into its direct opposite, a positive form of peer pressure. But how? Well, the negative effect caused by the negative peer pressure was turned into a positive take-away by the person who was subject to it, causing them to be more academically confident after the fact. AP classes give a huge helping hand to those that want a higher education. These classes, of course, are difficult. They test the limits of a students work ethic, and ability to retain and process information. Students at Coachella Valley High realize this, and are determined to help anyone seeking it in a friendly and accepting environment; “…this last November we formed the Coachella Valley High School Advanced Placement Club to support AP and future AP students and encourage more people to take these classes.” (The Desert Sun) Their reason to experiment with Peer Learning is explained in this statement:

“Currently, we offer 14 AP courses at Coachella Valley High, from calculus to Spanish literature. While I know that our very highest achievers are going to take these courses and succeed, I believe that for the majority of students, the cultural mindset of their classmates is just as important as the educator in the front of the classroom.” (The Desert Sun)

The practice of using peers as a means to teach is expressed here, emphasizing the importance of the educator. If the educator is someone within a students social group, they are more apt to be more open minded toward the peer-educators advice and academic strategies, causing an accelerated capability to retain information. This kind of Peer Interaction for improvement in AP classes is being implemented early on in highschool, with freshman being introduced to the program in an attempt to get them to recognize the useful prospect of the program;

“Here was a cross section of our school’s highest achievers made up of a diversity of personality types and interests building a master plan for high school success. They decided to bring that plan to the freshmen themselves. By the next meeting, Itcelia had contacted an administrator and gotten freshman teachers’ permission to give presentations in their classrooms.” (The Desert Sun)

All of these excerpts have one thing in common; all of these peer interactions resulted in academic improvement, whether or not it was indirect or direct. In order to utilize peer pressure as a means of obtaining higher student success rates, schools and other institutions of education must encourage peer learning. Where this peer learning can take place will, of course, vary, but it must be made routine to encourage the action of peer learning in the classroom, in extracurricular activities, and outside of school. If this is done, improvement in academics is sure to be seen with attending students.

Another way in which Peer Pressure can positively affect people is in the way it provides positive mental development among young people. The way in which we regulate ourselves is important. It’s necessary to make sure you don’t feel overcome with your responsibilities, and keeping your mental health in check is vital to remaining healthy physically and emotionally. Children in Winnipeg are doing just that by mandating time in school to self reflection, allowing children to witness peers self-reflect, therefore making them take a moment to themselves: “Macfarlane Penner believes mindfulness should be a ‘natural part of taking care of yourself,’ like brushing your teeth or getting enough sleep. -’It gets kids calmer and more focused,’ she says.” (Kelsey) Jón Olafson, the programs supervisor, explains the reasoning behind this activity; “Jón Olafson has been running the division’s mental health strategic plan, Healthy Minds, for the last four years. He says mindfulness was introduced so students could learn to self-regulate and cope with their emotions.” (Kelsey) This utilization of Peer Pressure allows students to take the time to clear their heads, and take a moment of self reflection. This calm atmosphere among peers in classrooms and the whole school in general must, of course, cause positive results. Which it did; “Six to eight weeks after mindfulness was adopted in all of the division’s schools, testing showed increased senses of calm and safety in classrooms, according to Olafson.” (Kelsey) The evidence shows that this type of mandated self-reflection time, along with the resulting positive atmosphere among peers, causes students to be less distracted, and more calm. Being calm, however, isn’t always possible. Sometimes, life events are mortifying, draining, and overwhelming. A Wisconsin school was home to your average students, but much more unfortunate things were lurking beneath the simple cover of a normal American highschool. A student talks to one of their peers about their current mental situation, and describes plans of self harm. The student hearing this story got help for the one in distress, and saved the student from himself. This student helped the other mentally by listening to them speak, and getting help quickly. (Linnane) The problem the student in question was suffering from was ridicule from their classmates, which is a seperate ongoing issue that plagues many social groups. The other students call to action was instant, possibly saving the ridiculed students life. Pressure from peers caused the one suffering to get help. This event is like many other events with similar situations, many suffering different, often terrible, outcomes. To counteract these horrible situations, a program called the “Safe School Ambassadors” was created to encourage and facilitate peer assistance concerning bullying:

“Most students who are bullied do not tell an adult at school, according to a national 2015 survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Often, student bystanders are in the best position to intervene during bullying or check in with a victim afterward. That’s why programs like Safe School Ambassadors focus on peer-to-peer methods of stopping bullying.” (Linnane)

This program, which uses Peer Pressure as a means to provide assistance to those suffering from bullying, is seeing significant results that prove the groups positive effects by improving student mindsets, discouraging bullying:

“Students meet regularly to reflect on what they’ve seen and how they’ve intervened. Incidents are generally kept anonymous unless a student is in danger, Holmes said. -‘We always talk about peer pressure as a negative thing, and it really can be a positive thing,’ Holmes said. She points to the district’s improving marks on the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. In 2017, 28% of Adams-Friendship High School students said they were bullied on school property. That’s down from 35% in 2015.” (Linnane)

This is firm evidence that peer pressure can be used to provide mental wellness in others by preventing bullying, and helping those who have to go through it. The statistics discussed previously also show it is an effective way of doing so. Peer Pressure doesn’t always have to occur in schools, though. They can occur pretty much anywhere in which an individual is interacting with other people within their age group. This can be a good thing, as activities such as youth groups promote mental wellness among those attending. These positive effects are amplified when an individual is surrounded by supervisors and other peers similar in mindset, opinion, emotion, and age. This is exactly what happened to someone who attended Celtic Youth Bray, a youth group, with them stating:

“I walked into the hall on my first Friday night and found a room full of happy, normal people just having fun. The leaders there welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like I really belonged. These leaders weren’t 30-year-old qualified youth workers. No, these leaders were normal 18 and 19 year olds, and that’s what made the difference.” (Irish Times)

This excerpt shows that the presence of people of similar age within the group created a welcoming and calming atmosphere for the speaker. They also explain that this interaction between peers lead them to mentally develop in a friendly environment ; “As my years progressed in Celtic Youth Bray I felt more at home and my relationship with the leaders there grew stronger. I hung on every word they said and wished that some day I could be just like them.” (Irish Times) This youth group allowed the speaker to mentally develop around people who accepted them, and could relate to them. The people the speaker was around definitely mattered, as the peer pressure within this social group pushed the speaker to participate socially healthy actions, further improving the speaker’s mental health. They go on to say: “I think hearing information from your peers makes it far more real and you’re more inclined to listen. I have a real passion for mental health and I know how important the message in the peer-education programme is.” (Irish Times) This excerpt supports the idea that positive mental development encouraged by similarly aged people occurs in social groups such as these, supporting the notion that peer pressure can cause positive mental development. All of the excerpts discussed outline peer pressure being used to further improve an individual’s mental health, usually through giving emotional support to those who need it in an individual’s age range or social group. Therefore, peer pressure can be utilized to improve the mental health of young people.

Peer Pressure is also positive in the sense that it helps young people socially develop. Our social development is influenced by many different factors, but the most prevalent is the effects of peer pressure on the way we socially develop. This means that peer pressure has a significant effect on our personalities, beliefs, and opinions. Hence, it’s important that we create social circles that encourage positive social development. This is exactly what three friends wanted to do, in order to push them to break boundaries in their lives; “Positive peer pressure led three boyhood friends to fulfill a dream of becoming doctors. Now, as MDs, these three have grown into men determined to set an example they hope young people will follow.” (Kaylyn) These 3 people set out to fulfill a goal all of them unanimously agreed upon, to become successful doctors. This encouraged positive social development between the 3 men, causing them to advance to their goals together. The inspiration didn’t stop there, though. The 3 Doctors now run a program that attempt to get young people on board with working with one another to socially develop and reach community goals; “Dr. Davis, Dr. Hunt and Dr. Jenkins, two physicians and a dentist respectively, remain united in their vision to share lessons they learned and encourage young people to work together and make a difference in their communities.” (Kaylyn) – “Examples of projects highlighted on the foundation’s website include organizing a walk-a-thon for AIDS, diabetes, or breast cancer research and education; developing substance abuse prevention programs for teens; and creating violence prevention programs geared toward young people.” (Kaylyn) While these two excerpts don’t discuss any results, they set out to establish inspirational aspects of peer encouraged social development. Community ran drug prevention programs targeted toward the same age group, peer organized walk-a-thons to raise awareness to certain illnesses, and the encouragement of non-violence from peers all outline how positive social development can occur from peer pressure. As mentioned beforehand, many factors play into social development. The relationships in which you have with other people is a large contributor to any individuals future social development, especially the interactions that you have with peers. Depending on who you are, you sometimes see peers more than other people in your life, and you tend to relate with them more, considering they are within the same age range as you. Such an idea is expressed in this excerpt from a newspaper: “…the building blocks that contribute to young people becoming responsible, caring, and successful adults. The 40 Developmental Assets range from connections and positive experiences with others, family members, and community…” (The Chilliwack Progress) It’s also touched upon within the same article that maintaining these relationships is healthy for a person’s future development, and making situations where you need to collaborate with others more natural and tolerable; “The ability to get along with other people in a way that is positive for self and for others is a highly valued skill. A recent survey asked employers what they would consider their first priority in a new employee, and working well with a team was at the top of the list.” (The Chilliwack Progress) Social development isn’t something that comes to humans naturally. Taking action and putting yourself into situations where you are interacting with other people, and in the case of young children, having the parents make them interact with other kids, is what really causes the positive results to show; “The ability to think ahead and make positive choices begins with children and youth having the opportunity to make small decisions about their lives. Young adults whose parents are making every single choice for them are at risk for missing out on learning and practicing this vital skill.” (The Chilliwack Progress) While all of this may seem like it’s stating the obvious, it’s crucial to understand how dramatically an individual’s social development can be affected through peer pressure, positive or not. This article emphasizes the importance of putting yourself into positive social situations where you can flourish and develop correctly. 


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