A social psychologist, Wendy Treynor came up with the hypothesis "The identity shift effect" which explains how peer pressure works. Let's understand this theory. Peer pressure refers to the direct or indirect influence of the community, group, or the type of people we live with to encourage the change in attitude and behavior of an individual, which depends on the type of environment they live in. This condition affects people of all age groups but adolescents are the most prone to this because adolescence is the period of life in which children spend more time with outside people through schools and colleges other than with parents.
How does the identity shift affect works? Let's have a look.
According to the hypothesis, it is said that when an individual comes in contact with different people and groups who have different level standards of living. The person comes in the situation of social rejection from the group if the person fails to conform to the group standards whether has to violate one's own standards. To get rid of this internal conflict of rejection and to be socially acceptable by all groups, an "identity shift" takes place, where one adopts the group standards whether they are morally right or wrong for oneself.
Peer pressure could influence a person in both negative as well as a positive way.
Negative Peer Pressure
When the pressure/ influence/ emotional thrust encourages an individual to get involved in socially wrong habits like smoking, bullying, drinking, abusive behavior, or so on. Then it affects one's in a negative way which quite affects the lives of both the individual and the people around them. The thing is when an individual gets negatively affected by their peers or the environment one lives in. The person quitely not able to understand the way by which the negativity is affecting them. For them, the activity like smoking or drinking is a part of fun activity or the way to show their superiority over others, which directly affects the mentality of other person's of the group/community about their image in the group and promotes identity shift.
Positive Peer Pressure
On the other hand, peer pressure also has a positive side too. The involvement with people who has a positive way of living life with the good habit can encourage one to take part in activities that yield positive results and healthier lifestyle. For example, volunteering in social work, taking part in sports activities and other competitions, living a social lifestyle by helping others in need, respecting others, and so on.
Children, adolescents and adults
A study done on groups of preschool children showed that they were influenced by groups of their peers to change their opinion to a demonstrably wrong one. It was found that in the physical presence of his/her peer affects the decision-making ability of an individual child. This is how much the environment affects a person. Peer pressure in adolescents associate with the risk of involvement in activities like bullying, smoking, sexual activities, drug addiction, internet addiction, video game addiction, sex addiction, abusive behavior, fighting/ conflicts, and other stuff at a very young age.
Whereas gender-wise, boys and girls reported facing differing amounts of pressure in different areas of their lives. It is found that girls experience a significant amount of pressure to conform to their groups in the form of clothing choices, way of speaking, social status, friend zone, etc. than the boys.
Even adults also face peer pressure at workplaces or other places, which compel them to live a stressful life that involves constantly wear the image of a hardworking, systematic, well behaved or gentleman/lady image. Activities like being in professional terms smoking/ drinking with business partners, alcohol addiction to cope up with social issues, attempt to maintain wealthier social life even if one is not financially well and so on.
Prevention and Parental Influence
No one is born with any good or bad habit/addiction or any type of the influence. We adapt to the environment in which we grown up and parents play a key role in the life making of a child. They have the biggest influence on the life of a child. And it's their duty to make sure that their children are not under any type of peers influence. And it starts from talking to them. With the growing race to earn the living, the connection of a parent to their children has weakened. It is found that the number of people who face peer pressure is those who spent a large amount of their time outside the home and we can say that away from their parents.
Instead of scolding and shaming the child for their bad habits, parents should try to talk to them, make efforts to know the psychology of their child, the reason behind their behavior. As talking about problems will never going to solve the problem, we should talk about the solutions. Programs or therapy sessions that spread awareness about peer pressure, abusive substance misuse, sexual behavior, self-image, addictions, etc. should be conducted to teach the kids can help in terminating the problem to some extent. And also moral education at home also help in avoiding the risks of involvement of children or adolescents in negative influence of peer pressure.
On an individual level, good emotional self-regulation the ability to control emotions or thoughts, and setting boundaries in your friend zone is another way to encounter peer pressure. As we all have an inner voice/ intuition which tells us whenever we are on the way to do something wrong. Listen to that.
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