Peer Pressure: Types, Examples, & How to Respond (2022)

Who Experiences Peer Pressure?

Anyone regardless of age can have peers as peers usually come from a common social circle. Our peers tend to be those individuals with whom we identify the most with. As children and adolescents, our peers are our classmates and friends. As teens and young adults, our classmates, coworkers and even family members can be our peers.

As adults, our coworkers, spouses, friends of spouses can all be peers. Our peers can change as we get older and our definition of what constitutes a social circle can also change. Likewise, peer pressure can also be experienced at any age and in any situation. As children grow up, we often think about peer pressure on a continuum from childhood to young-adulthood.

Children and adolescents of any age can experience peer pressure in the form of engaging in risky behavior, name calling or bullying other children or breaking rules. The pressure these children face to conform to their social circle is often the only way they feel they can belong to that group. As we get older, these feelings of needing to conform can persist.

Adults of any age are not immune to experiencing peer pressure. Peer pressure in this age group can also include risky behavior, however the consequences are more grave than those of childhood risky behaviors. Adults can experience peer pressure at work as many adults spend a great deal of time at work and interacting with coworkers. This type of pressure can look like working the same long hours as others, persuading others to do something you wouldn’t want to do yourself and anything in between.1

Types of Peer Pressure

There are many types of peer pressure which can be experienced at any age. Since peer pressure involves communicating some type of message, the way in which that message is communicated can be varied. You may experience very direct and clear peer pressure, at times it may be only a strong feeling, sometimes it might sound fun and other times it can sound scary and even illegal.

(Video) How To Handle Peer Pressure

There are many types of peer pressure, including:2

1. Spoken Peer Pressure

This type of peer pressure involves one individual or a group asking another individual to participate in some type of behavior. In a group setting, the pressure felt is much stronger as there is power in numbers.

2. Unspoken Peer Pressure

This type of peer pressure involves an individual being exposed to certain behaviors, trends or choices of others and feeling a pressure to conform.

3. Direct Peer Pressure

This type of peer pressure is challenging as it is very specific to behavior-based conformity and can be spoken or unspoken. Direct peer pressure can often feel heightened because of our own discomfort of the environment we’re in at that time of experiencing direct peer pressure.

4. Indirect Peer Pressure

This type of peer pressure is less invasive on our internal voice to behave a certain way, however, it can validate a behavior or activity we want to try but haven’t tried yet. It can be unspoken but also influence how we feel about ourselves.

(Video) One Simple Skill to Overcome Peer Pressure | The Behavioral Science Guys

5. Positive Peer Pressure

This type of peer pressure can be direct, indirect, spoken and/or unspoken. This is pressure felt in one-on-one situations or groups that yields positive results and healthier lifestyle choices.

6. Negative Peer Pressure

This type of peer pressure can also be direct, indirect, spoken and/or unspoken. This pressure can challenge individuals to do things they may not usually do and engage in such behaviors because others are doing so and it’s a way to belong.

How to Deal With Peer Pressure

There are many ways to deal with the various types of peer pressure you can experience. Some ways to handle it include first being aware of how you feel about the situation and environment you’re in when the peer pressure is happening. If you can pay attention to your emotions, you can often find yourself leaving a situation before you may be peer pressured into doing something you may not actually want to do.

Talking about these feelings and setting boundaries is another way to ensure you can stay comfortable in an environment. If your boundaries are not respected and the pressure continues, it can be a sign that your environment isn’t a place where you may be respected. This may help you think about the company you keep and help you start making choices where you’re in a company that respects you, your value system and boundaries.

Examples of Peer Pressure & How to Respond

There are a variety of ways in which people can feel pressured to engage in behaviors they may not want to. Everyone of all ages, races and genders are susceptive to feeling some type of peer pressure at some point in their life. It may not always result in grand consequences, but it is felt by all who experience it.

(Video) The Real Secret to Fighting Peer Pressure

Peer Pressure in Adolescent Men

It was recently found that male adolescents were more susceptible to risky behaviors including drug use and aggressive behaviors.3 Males at this age are trying to ensure they maintain their gender role stereotypes and often relate these behaviors to masculinity. Males at this age who defy gender norms tend to face more social consequences and are conditioned to then behave and act in a way that is in accordance to the majority.

This type of peer pressure is common among this demographic as it heavily relies on spoken and direct peer pressure. At this age group, boys are experiencing a great amount of hormonal changes and developing, however not all are developing in the same way or rate. Once these boys are together, the various stages of their development play a role in driving their choices and interactions. This is when boys who may be in a different developmental stage become more susceptible to direct, spoken peer pressure, such as taking a drink in a social situation, accepting a cigarette or engaging in pranks, vandalism and/or bullying.

One way to respond to this is to think about how those behaviors make you feel if your peers were not present. You can ask yourself if you would still engage in these risky behaviors if you were alone or even with a different set of friends or social group. If not, then thinking about the company you keep can be a good step to ensure you’re not finding yourself in situations where you don’t want to be.

Peer Pressure & Sexual Activity

In another study, high school and college-aged males were more likely to engage in sexual activities to prove their masculinity and their heteronormative identity. Males at this age are more likely to have an unspoken expectation to be engaging in sexual activities with the opposite sex as a larger cultural norm that has historically been left unchallenged. It is common for males at this age to feel an internal struggle to find a balance between managing these external pressures to perform in a specific way that is undefined by them and follow what they feel internally is right for them.4

This type of peer pressure is an unspoken peer pressure. While males at this age are not publicly pressuring other males to engage in sexual behaviors publicly to prove their masculinity, males at this age do feel a certain responsibility to both belong and be true to themselves. This unspoken peer pressure can leave these males feeling especially vulnerable and susceptible to engage in sexual behaviors even if they may not feel necessarily ready to do so.

(Video) How to handle Peer Pressure as a Teenager | Positive Peer Pressure vs Negative Peer Pressure

A way to respond to this type of unspoken peer pressure is to find a support system that normalizes how you may be feeling inside so your internal feelings can get the validation it needs. No one should feel any kind of pressure to engage in any kind of sexual activity, however having a support system that helps to validate internal feelings and honoring ourselves is helpful. Once these males can get to a place where they don’t feel like they need to prove anything to anyone, they can start a dialogue that can help other older boys and young men feel more comfortable with a conservative approach to sexual activity.

Peer Pressure & Alcohol Consumption

In a recent study, it was found that adult men and women both experience a pressure to drink alcohol.5 The experience has been described as both aggressive and friendly depending on the social situation. It proves that there is no age discrimination when it comes to peer pressuring to consume alcohol as many can often feel social isolation if they do not conform.

This type of peer pressure is direct, spoken, unspoken and negative. There are only ill feelings that come from being pressured to drink, whether that is emotional or physical. Drinking when you are not ready nor want to can make you physically sick and leave you feeling bad about yourself days after. It can also take days to recover from drinking in a peer pressure situation if you drank heavily to fit in. This can have very clear negative consequences as drinking as a result of pressure can leave you with poorer judgment, unable to see or think clearly, use a vehicle or communicate effectively. In a situation where this occurs with a professional network, it can harm your career and reputation.

One way to manage this type of peer pressure is to plan to set clear boundaries and expectations of yourself when you’re in a situation where you may be pressured to drink or drink more than you planned to. If your boundaries are shared, others may be able to offer you the social support of respecting those boundaries even if others continue to persist. This gives you clear validation and a network that you can rely on for future situations.

How to Get Help for Someone Who Has Experienced Peer Pressure

It’s important to recognize how peer pressure can leave lasting impacts on people’s mental health, regardless of their age, race and gender. Social anxiety is often a common consequence to peer pressure, especially if it has been experienced several times and/or over the course of one’s core developmental age brackets.6 Recognizing this may be a result of peer pressure is the first step to getting the right kind of help.

(Video) Small Talk | Peer Pressure | CBC Kids

Next, it’s important to make sure whoever has been peer pressured understands that their feelings are valid even if they acted against how they truly felt. It can take a lot of time to unlearn some of the behaviors learned throughout their lifetime. Identifying the ways in which someone is struggling is a good way to start healing. It gives us a pathway to getting to the core, especially over a long period of feeling pressured. It would be very helpful to find a therapist who can work with anxiety, self-esteem and self-image issues to help navigate the lasting impact of peer pressure activities.

Peer Pressure Statistics

Since there are a lot of ways you can feel peer pressured, it’s important to know how prevalent peer pressure is on various populations.

Consider these statistics about peer pressure:7,8,9,10

  • 85% of highschoolers have felt peer pressure
  • 75% of adolescents have tried alcohol due to peer pressure
  • 28% of those who gave in to peer pressure improved their social status
  • 70% of teen smokers began as a result of peer pressure
  • 33% of teen boys feel pressured to have sex
  • 46% of parents have not discussed sexual peer pressure with kids
  • 63% of young women feel pressured to dress a certain way


What are good types of peer pressure? ›

Positive Peer Pressure. A group dynamic can be a form of positive peer pressure if the behaviors are healthy, age-appropriate and socially acceptable. Positive peer pressure examples can include a peer group that wants to make good grades and positively influences a young teen to study.

What is positive and negative peer pressure? ›

Negative/Positive Peer Pressure

Negative peer pressure usually involves influence that sways people toward risky activity such as criminal behavior, underage drinking, drug use, and an overall unhealthy lifestyle. Positive peer pressure, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. It can prove to be beneficial.

What are 3 causes of peer pressure? ›

The causes of peer pressure include the need to fit in, low self-esteem, fear of rejection, and at most time the need to feel safety and security from peers. The effects of peer pressure can be negative and also have the worst outcomes. Peer pressure is most commonly found in the ages of 12-19 years old.


1. INVISIBLE INFLUENCE: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior by Jonah Berger
2. Social Influence: Crash Course Psychology #38
3. Can You Give Step-by-Step Advice on How to Handle PEER PRESSURE?
(Tolentino Teaching)
4. Peer pressure can be a positive thing | Tisha Shah | Jamnabai Narsee School
(TED-Ed Student Talks)
5. So You Think You Are Healthy?: Peer Pressure
(The Inquisitive Mind)
6. Teaching teens to deal with peer pressure Episode 76 of Transition Tuesday
(Ten Sigma)

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