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Peer group pressure

Positive; peer; pressure; negative; group; friend; safe; reaction; decision; bad; mistake; consequence; trouble; trust; change; choice; discrimination ;


It is important for kids to feel that they fit in with their peers - other kids in your group or school or neighbourhood. But sometimes you may find yourself doing something because others are doing it, but it makes you feel uncomfortable or not safe.

You always have the right to say no to something that you don't feel right about. Sometimes it is hard to say no to your friends - perhaps you need to learn how to keep out of situations that could lead to trouble.

Positive peer pressure could be called peer support. This means that you and your friends can support and help each other.

How peer pressure can affect people

Let's look at how Peer Pressure can affect people.

Positive   Negative
Stops and thinks
YOU Doesn't think of consequences 
Makes good decisions
CAN Does what others want,
copies work,
talks in class 
Takes action to avoid trouble
MAKE Always ready to join in trouble,
tells lies. 
Uses positive peer pressure A Uses negative peer pressure,
teases others,
leaves people out.
A person who is respected, trusted and gains privileges CHOICE A person who is not respected, not trusted and loses privileges.

Dealing with negative pressure

Feeling pushed to do something you think is wrong is sometimes called 'negative peer pressure'.

Learn to recognise the signs.
If you feel a bit scared, how does your body tell you?

  • Your legs feel shaky.
  • Your mouth feels dry.
  • Your tummy feels full of 'butterflies' or you feel sick.
  • Your heart beats faster.
  • Your head feels hot - or cold.

These are some body reactions which some children have had when they are feeling pressured to do something they don't feel right about. Do you have any different ones?

If you tune in to your feelings, you will be able to recognise when your body isn't comfortable, and your mind will try to tell your body what to do next.

Choosing what to do

You need to take charge here.

Stop and think. Ask yourself some questions.

  • Could this be trouble? Will it break the law? Will it break the school or home rules?
  • Will my family be angry or ashamed if I do this?
  • Will people in authority be angry with me or disappointed with me?
  • Will someone be hurt - their body or their feelings?
  • Will I be safe?
  • Do I feel good about this?

Assess the situation - think about what is happening.

You need to be able to recognise bad peer pressure.

If someone is asking you to do something wrong they might say things like.....

"Everyone does it"
"No one will know"
"You're chicken"
"Who's going to find out?"
"Don't be a wuss"
"Go on, I dare you"
no friends

Make a good choice

  • do I want to do this? (What is your body telling you?)
  • what good things could happen?
  • what bad things could happen?

Take action to avoid trouble

  • Decide how you can say NO.
  • If you are being bullied or you might be in danger, then you need to protect yourself. This might mean you say you will think about it and then say 'NO' when you are in a safer place, or not alone.  (See our topic Bullying if you want to know more.)

How to say no

These are some ways that have worked for kids who wanted to say no.

  • peer group pressureJust say No! Keep on saying it.
  • Leave, so that you can't be persuaded.
  • Pretend you haven't heard and walk away.
  • Make an excuse. "Can't stop now, got to go....."
  • Talk about something else that they are interested in and don't let them change the subject.
  • Laugh. "I thought you said… You've got to be joking!" Then change the subject or leave - still laughing.
  • Pretend to be shocked or amazed.
  • Have a better idea.
  • Give friendly advice: "That could be a dumb thing to do. Whose idea was it? You're too smart to get into that."
  • Say, "I'm not doing this because I'm your friend and I don't want to see you get into trouble."
  • Say, "That's a bit unkind. How would you feel if someone did (said) that to you?"
  • Say, "Everybody's different, even you."
  • Say, "You're entitled to your opinion, I'm entitled to mine."

Whatever you do, speak quickly and firmly. Make it clear that your mind is made up and you don't want to talk about it any more.

Can you think of any other ideas?

Positive peer pressure

Positive peer pressure could be called peer support.

This means that you and your friends can support and help each other to

  • set limits for acceptable behaviour eg. no gossip and bullying
  • make good choices
  • be accepting of each others differences.
  • be involved in positive activities like sport, music, friendships.
  • join in with other positive people involved in worthwhile groups like protecting the environment,  sports teams,  volunteer groups, scouts, drama and music groups.
  • speak out against bullying, gossip and name-calling.

Being part of a positive peer group can offer lots of things like

  • having fun with your friends
  • feeling like you belong and are valued for yourself
  • feeling confident and secure with people who share your values and interests.
  • feeling safe enough to take positive risks and offer ideas.
  • getting to know more people and what they think.
  • learning to discuss, negotiate and make decisions.
  • learning to get on with other people.
  • feeling that you are listened to and accepted
  • sharing interests and learning new things.

Kids' comments

This is what some kids wrote about peer group pressure.

Positive comments are good to give.
Our differences do not matter.
Say, "I like that."
If you disagree, respect their opinion.
Try to make friends.
Imagine how you would feel.
Very good friends don't dare.
Everyone is different.
peer group pressure

This is what some people seem to believe:

 Negative peer group pressure is cool.
  Equal rights are not for everyone.
  Good friends and good manners don't matter.
  Aggressive people are the most popular.
  Try to get others into trouble.
  Insult people's feelings.
  Verbal abuse makes you look smart.
  Enjoying learning is not cool.

Laura turned negative to positive like this:
No put-downs.
verybody's different.
irls and boys can be friends.
nother child may look different, but we are all the same inside.
he band you love may be good but accept it if someone else
   doesn't like it.
nside everyone are feelings just like yours.
ariety of different people can be friends.
verybody counts.

'Tamagochis' were really in fashion and everyone (except me) had one and I was begging my parents to get me one.

By the time I got one the fad was over. I learned not to trust in fads, they don't last long and I could have spent the money on something that I really wanted.  

My friend had lots of disagreements with her class friends and her outside friends. She got angry if people did not agree with her or didn't like the same things, eg. clothes, bands, TV shows.

She used to deal with this by not talking to people, getting people on her side, fighting and looking for other friends. She found that these were not good ideas in the end. She found a place that she could go to forget or think about her problems. Now she thinks everyone can have their own ideas and people are different.

Maybe the positive group pressure from her peers helped her to find a better way of dealing with things?

Why not ask your teacher if you can start a chart in your class where people can write about the positive peer pressure that is going on in your class, school, playground?

You could call it "Ways for happy days" and have three parts: class, school and playground.

Everyone always hears about the negative stuff, don't they? How about we all make a big deal about the positive? You never know, it could be fun!

Dr Kim says

Dr Kim
You can change yourself and help others around you to change by being a positive person and refusing to allow negative pressures to win.

Everyone makes mistakes; even heroes like Frodo in the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movies. The trick is to learn from your mistake. Admit that you have made a mistake, say sorry and see what you can do to make things right again.

Remember:Nothing is so awful that you can't talk with someone about it.

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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