Among teenagers the need to connect with their peers and associate themselves with a specific group becomes strong as they look beyond their families to create bonds and friendships. During this time, parents become more worried about problems arising from negative peer pressure and their kids’ vulnerability towards it. And worry they should, as study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia says that children’s ability to build strong friendships while resisting the effects of peer pressure may enable them to avoid serious problems in their adulthood. The study was published in the journal Child Development.
Researchers, Joseph P. Allen and Hugh P. Kelly at the University of Virginia selected 150 teens and followed their growth and development over a period of ten years, starting from age 13. They studied the long-term effects of their peer struggles early in adolescence. The teens were selected from different racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds to find the effects of peer pressure across the channel. Their parents, peer groups and later relationships with romantic partners were observed over 10-year period to make the findings.
Professor Allen and Kelly concluded that “They (teens) need to establish strong, positive connections with them (peers) while at the same time establishing independence in resisting deviant peer influences. Those who don't manage this have significant problems as much as a decade later.”
Following are salient features of the findings made by the two professors:
- Teens having difficulty in making friendships and finding connections with their peers during their adolescence will have difficulty in having romantic relationships in adulthood.
- Teens who had problem with resisting peer pressure for minor forms of deviance such as shoplifting are at high risk of committing crimes on larger scale in adulthood.
- On the contrary, teens who were friendly, approachable and empathetic are most likely to have strong relationships in future.
- Teens who could showed some independence vis a vis peer pressure had high chances of avoiding delinquent behavior in adulthood.
Lesson for parents and teachers
While concluding their study, Professors Allen and Kelly made some observations for parents and teachers to help their teens fight negative peer pressure and stand up for themselves.
They said, "Teaching teens how to stand up for themselves in ways that preserve and deepen relationships - to become their own persons while still connecting to others -- is a core task of social development that parents, teachers, and others can all work to promote".
Source: Society for Research in Child Development